Donald Trump ridiculed after insisting Vladimir Putin 'not going into Ukraine' two years after invasion

Republican nominee claimed Russia wouldn't invade Ukraine and blamed Obama when corrected

Caroline Mortimer
New York
,Andrew Buncombe
Monday 01 August 2016 18:12 BST
Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin: “He’s not going into Ukraine"

Another day, another controversy involving Donald Trump.

Amid allegations that the Repubilican nominee has praised the authoritarian Russian leader and controversy that he urged Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's emails, Mr Trump has now been mocked for giving a confused explanation of the Ukraine crisis. He also suggested he would end sanctions against Russia.

In an interview on ABC News programme This Week, Mr Trump appeared to suggest he did not know Mr Putin had already seized control of the south-east of parts of Ukraine and was supplying Moscow-supporting rebels with arms, logistical support and even fighters.

He said: “He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand.

“He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”

But when the host, George Stephanopoulous, pointed out that some Russian troops have already been in eastern Ukraine for nearly two years, the Republican presidential nominee backpedalled and became defensive.

He said: “OK, well, he’s there in a certain way.

“But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this.

“In the meantime, he’s going away. He take – takes Crimea.”

As part of an effort to cement domestic support, Mr Putin invaded the Crimea in 2014 and is widely believed to be arming separatist rebels in the Donetsk region in the east of the country.

Since then, Russian troops, both in and out of uniform, have been seen in Ukraine despite a continued official denial that they are there.

The Ukraine crisis was sparked by the then government’s plan to reject a deal with the EU which would draw it away from Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Following the downing of flight MH17 over the region by Russian-armed separatists in 2014, Western governments imposed trade sanctions against the country.

Mr Trump’s comments attracted mockery from all sides with Hillary Clinton’s spokesman, Jake Sullivan, saying: “While Trump hasn’t mastered basic facts about the world, he has mastered Putin’s talking points on Crimea (which, of course, the United States and most of the world still recognizes as part of Ukraine).

“Today, he gamely repeated Putin’s argument that Russia was justified in seizing the sovereign territory of another country by force.

“Russia is already in Ukraine. Does he not know that? What else doesn’t he know?”

Activists of the Azov civil corp take part in a protest against local elections in pro-Russian rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine under the Minsk peace agreement, in Kiev
Activists of the Azov civil corp take part in a protest against local elections in pro-Russian rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine under the Minsk peace agreement, in Kiev (Reuters)

“This is scary stuff but it shouldn’t surprise us.

“This comes on the heels of his tacit invitation to the Russians to invade our NATO allies in Eastern Europe.”

Meanwhile, a New York tabloid which has previously proved to be a thorn in the reality star’s side mocked him on their front page, calling the Republican presidential candidate a 'bloc-head'.

On Twitter, people took it as further evidence that Mr Trump is not suited to be Commander-in-Chief. Others pointed out that not since 1976, when President Gerald Ford committed a major error in one of his debates with Jimmy Carter, declaring that “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe", has the US's relationship with Russia been an electoral issue.

Mr Putin is one of the few world leaders who welcomed Mr Trump’s nomination for the Republican candidacy, along with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un.

Over the last week, Mr Trump has been at the centre of a controversy over his possible links to Mr Putin after the release of more than 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by Wikileaks. One of the emails revealed a plot to smear Bernie Sanders. Some intelligence experts believe Russia was behind the plot and the Clinton campaign has accused Mr Trump of benefitting from the timing of their release.

Last week, as Democrats were meeting in Philadelphia, Mr Trump sparked more outcry when he called on Russia to hack to the rest of Ms Clinton's emails. The following day, he claimed he was merely being sarcastic.

The controvery over Mr Trump's alleged fondness for Mr Putin also relates to his campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Mr Manafort was previously employed by Viktor Yanukovych, who was democratically elected Ukraine's leader in 2010 and who sought to return his country to Russia's orbit of influence after two decades of post-independence politics that had seen Ukraine look to Europe and Nato. Mr Yanukovych was ultimately forced out by street protests and violence in 2014.

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