Former US president Donald Trump boasted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “would never have happened” during his time in office – just moments after Vladimir Putin announced his “military operation” in the region.
The former world leader appeared in a phone interview on Fox News after bomb blasts were reported in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where he spoke glowingly about his “close friendship” with the Russian president.
“I think he (Putin) wanted to do something and negotiate, and it got worse and worse, and then he saw the weakness,” Trump told host Laura Ingraham, claiming he didn’t believe Putin “wanted to do this initially”.
“It’s a very sad thing for the world, the country, and it’s a very sad thing for people who are going to be needlessly killed.”
Trump reiterated his comments praising the Russian leader this week, claiming the US government’s recent drawback from Afghanistan showed “weakness” to the world.
He again took the opportunity to criticise US President Joe Biden, placing some blame for the current situation on what he believes to be a “rigged election” in 2020.
“(Putin) was going to be satisfied with peace, and now he sees the weakness and incompetence and stupidity of this administration,” Trump said.
“As an American, I am angry and saddened by it. And this is happening because of a rigged election.”
Trump was criticised this week after hailing Putin as a “genius” for his recent strategy in the region.
Speaking to conservative radio programme The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show on Tuesday, Trump said he knew Putin “very well” and his tactics had been “smart” after ordering Russian forces into two rebels regions in eastern Ukraine, sparking fears of all-out war.
In the hour-long interview, Trump claimed Putin “liked me” and that despite being a “tough cookie”, the Russian President has “great charm and a lot of pride”.
“He loves his country. He’s acting a little differently now, I think he sees this opportunity,” he said.
Trump said he “always knew” Putin “wanted Ukraine” and that the pair had conversations about it while Trump was President.
“I said, ‘You can’t do it, you’re not going to do it.’ But I could see that he wanted it,” he said.
When asked about Putin recognising the two breakaway regions in Ukraine as independent, Trump said, “I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion … of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent.”
Putin has defied a barrage of international criticism over the crisis, with some Western leaders saying he was no longer rational.
His announcement of the military operation came ahead of a last-ditch summit involving European Union leaders in Brussels planned for Thursday.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared Russia’s attack “reckless and unprovoked” as the situation quickly evolved.
“Once again, despite our repeated warnings and tireless efforts to engage in diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country,” he said.
The Nato boss declared Russia’s attack a “grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security”, calling on Putin to immediately retreat his troops.
“Nato allies will meet to address the consequences of Russia’s aggressive actions,” he added. “We stand with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time. Nato will do all it takes to protect and defend all Allies.”
US President Joe Biden responded immediately, declaring “the world will hold Russia accountable” as violence breaks out.
“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” he tweeted. “The world will hold Russia accountable.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also came out against the sudden move from the Russian military.
The EU has also imposed sanctions on Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu and high-ranking figures including the commanders of Russia’s army, navy and air force, another part of the wave of Western punishment after Putin sought to rewrite Ukraine’s borders.
The United Nations Security Council met late yesterday for its second emergency session in three days over the crisis, with a personal plea there by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Putin going unheeded.
“President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine, give peace a chance, too many people have already died,” Guterres said.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, warned that an all-out Russian invasion could displace five million people, triggering a new European refugee crisis.
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