Putin Lets It All Hang Out at Press Conference

| Tue Mar. 4, 2014 12:06 PM EST

Julia Ioffe says Angela Merkel was right: Vladimir Putin has lost his marbles. Here is her reaction to his televised press conference earlier today:

Slouching in a fancy chair in front of a dozen reporters, Putin squirmed and rambled. And rambled and rambled. He was a rainbow of emotion: serious! angry! bemused! flustered! confused! So confused. Victor Yanukovich is still the acting president of Ukraine, but he can't talk to Ukraine because Ukraine has no president. Ukraine needs elections, but you can't have elections because there is already a president. And no elections will be valid given that there is terrorism in the streets of Ukraine. And how are you going to let just anyone run for president? What if some nationalist punk just pops out like a jack-in-the-box? An anti-Semite?

....The American political technologists they did their work well. And this isn't the first time they've done this in Ukraine, no. Sometimes, I get the feeling that these people...these people in America. They are sitting there, in their laboratory, and doing experiments, like on rats. You're not listening to me. I've already said, that yesterday, I met with three colleagues. Colleagues, you're not listening. It's not that Yanukovich said he's not going to sign the agreement with Europe. What he said was that, based on the content of the agreement, having examined it, he did not like it. We have problems. We have a lot of problems in Russia. But they're not as bad as in Ukraine. The Secretary of State. Well. The Secretary of State is not the ultimate authority, is he?

And so on, for about an hour. And much of that, by the way, is direct quotes.

Other sources aren't quite as scornful as Ioffe, but they're close. The Guardian described Putin's remarks as "impromptu and occasionally rambling." The New York Times said he was "clearly furious." Adam Taylor of the Washington Post called it "a series of half-truths, circular reasoning, and bravado."

In any case, the main actual news of the press conference is that Putin said he saw no need to send forces into eastern Ukraine "yet," but reserves the right to do so in the future. So that's the latest.

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