Crimea is as sacred to Russia as Jerusalem's Temple Mount is to Judaism and Islam, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday in a hawkish annual address, in which he defended Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
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In the speech, Putin said that Kremlin's aggressive foreign policy was necessary for his country's survival. Russia annexed the Crimea in March and was later accused of supplying pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with ammunition and manpower.
In the annual state-of-the-nation address at the Grand Kremlin Palace, Putin referred to Crimea as Russia's spiritual ground. He called the region "the same as Temple Mount in Jerusalem for those who confess Islam and Judaism. And this is exactly how we will treat it from here for ever," Voice of America reported.
He also said that national pride and sovereignty are "a necessary condition for survival" of Russia.
"If for many European countries, sovereignty and national pride are forgotten concepts and a luxury, then for the Russian Federation a true sovereignty is an absolutely necessary condition of its existence," he told a full room of Cabinet ministers, lawmakers and community leaders. "I want to stress: either we will be sovereign, or we will dissolve in the world. And, of course, other nations must understand this as well."
More than 4,300 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine in what the West and the Ukrainian government says is a conflict fueled by Russian money.
Putin once again expressed his displeasure over the toppling of Ukrainian Presidential Viktor Yanukovych but did not offer any insight into what Russia's next actions in eastern Ukraine could be.
Although Russia is boosting its national defense budget Putin said it is not going to get involved in an expensive arms race. He said unspecified "unusual solutions" are at the nation's disposal.
"No one will succeed in defeating Russia militarily," he said.