ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands 

One day after Russian President Vladimir Putin took aggressive new steps on Ukraine, the Dutch prime minister described Putin as “totally paranoid.” 

Appearing on television, Mark Rutte criticized Putin ordering Russian troops to “maintain peace” in two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine after recognizing them as independent.

Declining to comment on whether Putin’s order was the first step towards war, Rutte said: “This man is completely paranoid.”

“He describes the Kyiv government as a dictatorship, even though it is a reasonably functioning country, with a democratically elected government and free press,” Rutte underlined, adding that Russia itself suffers from a lack of freedom, including freedom of the press.

In case of an invasion of Ukraine, heavy sanctions should be imposed on Putin and his supporters, said Rutte.

In a fiery speech late Monday, Putin announced the recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk, also attacking Ukraine’s government and accusing the West of ignoring Moscow’s core security concerns.

Later, he ordered the deployment of Russian troops to “maintain peace” in the separatist regions, with some 100,000 troops already in place near Ukraine’s borders.

Global condemnations have poured in following Russia’s latest moves, with Western states vowing tough new sanctions.  

* Writing by Seda Sevencan​​​​​​​

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