Defiant Putin accuses West of provoking Ukraine crisis

Market watch: MOSCOW — Striking a defiant tone, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.

In a speech to lawmakers and senior officials, Putin said Russia wouldn’t seek isolation or get involved in an arms race. But he lashed out at Western sanctions over Russia’s role in Ukraine, saying they were part of a plan to suppress Russia that would have been implemented with or without the crisis in Ukraine.

“No one will secure military superiority over Russia,” Putin said. “We have sufficient strength, will and courage for our defense.”

Putin’s speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall indicated he has no intention of backing down in the face of Western sanctions which, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession.

Turning to the Russian economy, which by one government assessment could contract next year, Putin said the government would take steps to liberate businesses from excessive regulation to stimulate the economy.

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