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Putin Talks Ukraine, Tension with U.S., Defends Actions

Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia) -- Speaking with reporters on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched on a number of touchy subjects including the tense relationship between Russia and the United States and the situation in the Ukraine.

With Putin apparently set to attend an event for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France. The Russian president said he is "not going to avoid" the Western leaders who have denounced his country's actions in Ukraine. "As for conversations and meetings, I will come, of course, if nothing changes from the point of view of the host of the event, President Hollande...I'll eagerly meet with any of my colleagues," Putin said.

Asked specifically about the tension between the U.S. and Russia, Putin shrugged off the possibility of the return of the Cold War, saying that "no one needs [that]," and "I don't think it's going to happen." He also gave no credence to the idea that he is trying to revive the Soviet Union, saying that "people are trying to label us as such, that we're trying to restore the empire, the Soviet Union, to bring everybody under our influence. But this is totally inaccurate."

On the subject of Ukraine, Putin said that he was prepared to engage in gas talks, but that he wants "constructive dialogue...based not on demands or ultimatums with unclear motivations but on civilized market work." Putin also made comments tinged with sarcasm, implying that Ukraine is uninterested in having a legitimate president.

In all, Putin defended Russian actions over the last few months, particularly in the annexation of Crimea, by calling them "proportional" to Ukraine's actions. "We believe that there was an attempt to speak to us in a language of force, and so we made a proportional response," the Russian president claimed.

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