Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg - was the real winner Vladimir Putin?

Ukip leader has come under fire for accusing EU of having 'blood on its hands' over the Ukraine crisis 

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The gauntlet was thrown, the gloves came off and amidst a flurry of tweets, scurrying journalists and political posturing round one of Nick vs Nige saw a fairly even start.

The polls may suggest Nigel Farage emerged victorious from his debate with Nick Clegg over Britain's future in the European Union, but the real winner would appear to be President Vladimir Putin.

He may not agree with Mr Clegg over the EU, but amid his assertions, the leader of Ukip seemed to back the Kremlin's stance on the Ukraine, suggesting the EU had "blood on its hands" over Crimea.

Mr Farage found himself facing a backlash of criticism on Twitter for claiming the EU had provoked the Russian leader, while accusing the British government of "geeing up" those behind the uprising in Ukraine that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

He hit out at an "imperialist, expansionist EU", which he said should "hang its head in shame" for providing false hope - apparently taking a pro-Kremlin stance on the crisis which has seen Moscow's formal annexation of the peninsula of Crimea in southern Ukraine into Russia.

"We have given a false series of hopes to a group of people in the western Ukraine and so geed up were they that they actually toppled their own elected leader," he said.

"That provoked Mr Putin and I think the European Union, frankly, does have blood on its hands in the Ukraine. I don't want a European army, navy, air force or a European foreign policy. It has not been a thing for good in the Ukraine."

However, when Mr Clegg was asked why countries such as Ukraine are so keen to develop ties with the EU as the UK debates doing the opposite, the leader of the Lib Dems insisted that while the EU "needs reforming" it has also been responsible for a number of formerly communist countries becoming democracies because they became part of "the family of nations within the European Union".

"It was very moving to see those people demonstrating for their freedoms, demonstrating for their rights and some of them dying for it in Kiev," he said.

Despite Mr Farage's statement, which some may find controversial, some 57 per cent of those surveyed thought Mr Farage had performed best, compared to just 36 per cent for the Lib Dem leader.

Read more: Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage clash over immigration during live debate