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Ukraine’s Poroshenko: Putin wants my whole country

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Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia’s Vladimir Putin of seeking to annex his entire country and called in interviews with German media for Chancellor Angela Merkel to come to Kiev’s aid in the crisis.

Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships and their crews on Sunday near the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, over what it said was their illegal entry into Russian waters – a charge Ukraine strongly rejects.

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In interviews with Germany’s Bild newspaper and the Funke newspaper group on Thursday, Poroshenko rejected Russia’s charge that the vessels’ entry into the Azov Sea – a body of water shared by Ukraine and Russia on which the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk sit – was a provocation.

“Don’t believe Putin’s lies,” he told Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling paper, comparing Russia’s protestations of innocence in the affair to Moscow’s 2014 denial that it had soldiers in Crimea even as they moved to annex it.

“Putin wants the old Russian empire back,” he said. “Crimea, Donbass, the whole country. As Russian Tsar, as he sees himself, his empire can’t function without Ukraine. He sees us as his colony.”

Moscow seized Crimea after a pro-Russian leader was toppled in Kiev, and later backed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict in which more than 10,000 people have been killed. Major fighting ended with a 2015 ceasefire but deadly exchanges of fire are still frequent.

Poroshenko called on Germany, the largest and wealthiest buyer of Moscow’s gas exports, to halt the building of an undersea gas pipeline that would allow Russia to supply Germany directly, cutting out Ukraine.

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“We need a strong, resolute and clear reaction to Russia’s aggressive behavior,” he told Funke. “That also means stopping the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.”

Germany regards the pipeline, which is being built by Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, as a private investment. But Merkel recently acknowledged its “political dimensions” and said Ukraine must continue to be a conduit for Russian gas sold to western Europe.

German officials said on Wednesday that their position on the pipeline remained unchanged and that talk of tighter sanctions against Moscow, demanded by the United States and many European politicians, was “premature”.

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Poroshenko also called for the stationing of NATO vessels in the Sea of Azov.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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No way Pence didn’t know what Trump was up to in Ukraine after aide’s revelations: CNN panel

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A CNN panel discussion on testimony given by a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence said her revelations about what she knew about President Donald Trump's Ukraine dealings can only mean Pence knew and is lying.

Speaking with New Day hosts John Berman and Alisyn Camerota, contributor Kaitlan Collins stated Jennifer Williams' description of Trump's Ukraine phone call was expected to set Trump off, which it did when the president raged at her on Sunday as a "Never Trumper."

"We kind of saw this coming, that they anticipated the president could be frustrated by her testimony," Collins explained. "Because in the weeks before, when she was going to testify behind closed doors, we saw them distancing themselves from her. Yes, she works in our office, but she's the State Department employee detailed to our office."

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Trump blames Mike Pompeo for devastating testimony in impeachment inquiry: ‘Rein your people in!’

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President Donald Trump unloaded recently on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom he blames for devastating testimony against him the House impeachment inquiry.

The president confronted Pompeo, who has been his closest ally, during an Oct. 29 lunch at the White House, according to four current former senior administration officials who spoke to NBC News.

"(Trump) just felt like, ‘rein your people in,’” said one senior administration official.

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Russia claims ships handed back to Ukraine ahead of summit

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Russia said Monday it had handed over three navy ships it seized a year ago from Ukraine, in the latest move to ease tensions between the two countries ahead of a crucial summit.

After an exchange of prisoners in September and the withdrawal of some frontline forces over the last few weeks, the handover marked another step in trying to resolve the five-year conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Efforts have been building since the election this year of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine's new president, and on Friday France announced he would hold his first face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on December 9.

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