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Putin: Plans to take control of Crimea began before referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered for work to start on taking control of Crimea weeks before a referendum which Kremlin officials claimed prompted the region's annexation from Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin Credit: Reuters

In an interview with Russian state television channel Rossiya-1 broadcast on Sunday, Putin said that the plans were first discussed in February last year during an emergency meeting about the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.

His account is at odds with previous Kremlin statements that claimed that the annexation decision was taken after the referendum on March 16, when Crimeans voted to become part of the Russian Federation.

This was on the night of Feb. 22 through to Feb. 23. We finished around 7 in the morning. And, while saying goodbye, I told all the colleagues: 'We have to start the work on Crimea's return into Russia'."

– President Vladimir Putin

Western governments have condemned Russia's intervention in Crimea as illegal, with the European Union and United States imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Report: Putin and top ministers to take 10% pay cut

President Putin will reportedly see his wages slashes by a tenth. Credit: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin is take a 10% pay cut, Agence France-Presse reports.

The earnings of several other top officials will also be cut. Russia is still reeling from the collapse of the ruble.

The wage reduction also applies to all of those employed by the presidency and the council of ministers affected.


Putin writes to Nemtsov’s mother after murder

Vladimir Putin has written a letter telling Boris Nemtsov’s mother, Dina Eidman that he 'shares her sorrow.'

The message of condolences from the President, published on the Kremlin website, reads in part:

Please accept my deepest condolences in connection with this irreparable loss. I sincerely share your sorrow.

Boris Nemtsov has left his mark in the history of Russia, in its political and public life. He occupied significant posts in a difficult time of transition in this country. He always openly and honestly voiced and upheld his views.

We will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of this foul and cynical crime and those who stand behind them are properly punished.

– Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin: Ukraine ceasefire from Sunday

Vladimir Putin Credit: Reuters

Russian president Vladimir Putin says a ceasefire in the Ukraine conflict has been agreed.

The ceasefire will begin on Sunday, he said and heavy artillery will be removed.

Speaking to reporters after almost 16 hours of talks, Putin said: "We have managed to agree on the main issues."

US warns 'Russian costs will rise' without Ukraine peace deal

The White House said President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call to agree to a peace deal.

"If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise," the White House statement added.

President Putin in on a trip to Egypt. Credit: Reuters

The Kremlin, in its statement about the call, said Putin and Obama highlighted the need for the need for a political solution to the "internal" conflict in Ukraine.

The Kremlin also said the two leaders also noted the necessity to safeguard the rights of inhabitants of all Ukrainian regions, including Russian-speakers in the east.


Hammond: Putin acting like 'mid-20th century tyrant'

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of acting like a "mid-20th century tyrant" over Ukraine,

Mr Hammond said that President Putin reverse its annexation of the Crimea and start respecting international law.

He also predicted that Russian economic decline - partly as a result of international sanctions - would curb its "outrageous" foreign adventures.

Putin spokesman calls Asperger's claim 'stupidity'

A claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger's syndrome is "stupidity not worthy of comment," a Kremlin spokesman said.

Dmitry Peskov's comment to the website comes after it was revealed that a Pentagon report, written in 2008, theorised the Russian president has "an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions".

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: James Moy/James Moy Photography/PA Images

The study, conducted for Pentagon thinktank the Office of Net Assessment, monitored Putin's movements and concluded that in very early life he "suffered a huge hemispheric event".

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he had no comment on the report.

Moscow celebrates Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday

People in the Russian capital of Moscow have been seen celebrating president Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday today.

A huge banner hung from a bridge in the city showing US president Barack Obama wearing a T-shirt wishing happy birthday to 'global daddy' Putin.

A huge banner depicting US president Barack Obama wearing a Putin T-shirt hangs on a bridge in Moscow. Credit: Reuters

Shops in the capital sold T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with their leader's face.

A shop assistant in Moscow shows off his Putin sweatshirts. Credit: Reuters
A Moscow shop sells sweatshirts printed with a sunglasses-wearing Putin. Credit: Reuters

But demonstrators in Poland chose today to protest against Putin's rule outside the Russian embassy in Warsaw.

Demonstrators in Poland hold anti-Putin posters in Warsaw on the Russian president's 62nd birthday. Credit: Reuters

Putin: Deal to end fighting 'could be reached by Friday'

A deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine could be reached this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

A local resident walks past a crater caused by shelling in the village of Spartak outside Donetsk. Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Following a phone call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Putin said their views on ending the violence were "very close" and suggested Kiev and the pro-Russian separatists could reach an agreement by Friday.

Earlier US President Barack Obama said a ceasefire would only succeed if Russia stopped sending troops "disguised as separatists" into Ukraine.

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