Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday the war raging in eastern Ukraine would stop if Kiev implemented measures agreed to late last year in Minsk, and all the weapons in the region wouldn't even be there if the country's leaders hadn't tried to impose their NATO aspirations by force on thousands of people who didn't share them.
In a question-and-answer session during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin did not, however, repeat his government's denial that Russian troops and military hardware are bolstering Ukrainian rebel forces. The U.S. insists that to be the case and has demanded Russia withdraw its forces and weapons from Ukraine.
"We are not aggressive," insisted Putin. "We are persistent in pursuing our interests."
Putin told summit moderator and "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose the world is demanding Russia "influence the situation, but that is not enough."
The Russian leader said the U.S., Kiev and Europe must "work together" to implement the Minsk Protocol, which he repeatedly accused the central Ukrainian government of violating.
He said Ukraine's government had agreed in Minsk to grant the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk greater autonomy and new elections, and then implemented laws effectively blocking those measures.
Putin accused Kiev of claiming the regions -- over which the Ukrainian government has essentially no control since the Moscow-backed rebels swept to power last year -- but refusing to look after the residents there by paying salaries and social allowances.
The Russian leader accused the U.S. government of "trying to impose on us their decisions and their standards without thinking how we consider our own interests."
He said Washington was "interfering with our internal political processes" by financing non-governmental organizations in Russia and practicing "interventionist" security measures on the world stage.
Putin pointed back to a familiar quote by former U.S. President George W. Bush as symbolic of the U.S. mentality. Bush, at the onset of his U.S.-led "war on terrorism," declared to the leaders of the world, "you're either with us, or against us."
"That's not a dialogue, that's an ultimatum," said Putin to applause.
"We are in fact being told that the United States know better what we need. Let us define our own interests and our needs ourselves," Putin said. "We should not be spoken to in the language of ultimatums."
The Russian leader also said he believes there will be an agreement on Iran's nuclear program soon, and that his government would continue to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad -- another difference of opinion between Moscow and Washington.
"We are ready to work with the president to ensure political transformation, so that all Syrians have access to instruments of power," Putin said.
Putin said the U.S. and Russia did have common concerns, including fighting global terrorism, drug trafficking and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
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