Russian President Vladimir Putin has been asked about a series of recent remarks by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin that cast a shadow over the current Russian leadership.
Putin responded to a question from a journalist about the comments on Tuesday by saying he was not the same man.
“I’m not sure who made the comments, but it was certainly not me,” he said.
The Russian president, who has been under pressure from critics over his handling of the 2011 nuclear crisis in Ukraine, did not elaborate on his remarks.
He also did not address any of the allegations against Yeltsins political family.
“He was not my predecessor, he was my predecessor and I’m sure he is a real human being,” Putin said.
“It was a very serious mistake to do that.
But it is not something we can repeat.
We are not going to repeat that mistake.”
Putin also dismissed criticism of his role in the 2011 incident as a “complete nonsense”.
“It’s completely wrong,” he added.
“The only mistake we did was to allow ourselves to become a hostage to this idea that it was something that could happen anywhere.”
Putin said that Yeltsinsky had told him during a meeting in December 2011 that he was going to “stop the nuclear weapons and disarm” the Ukrainian government.
“This was an order from the highest office,” Putin added.
But the Russian leader said he did not hear the order from Yeltsinski himself.
“When I asked him what he meant by this, he said: ‘If I see that the situation gets worse and I don’t have the authority to stop the nuclear weapon development, I’m going to stop this program,'” Putin said, adding that Yelsinski told him it would be a “good idea” to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for Russia’s assistance in Ukraine.
“Then, I said, ‘That’s fine.’
And then he asked me: ‘And what’s your idea of giving up nuclear arms?’
And I said: ‘[President Putin] is a man of his word.'”
The Russian leader also rejected the idea that Russia could be accused of turning a blind eye to the nuclear issue in Ukraine and urged Russia to make a “constructive” decision to end the crisis in the country.
“We’re not going back,” Putin continued.
“Our interests and the interests of Ukraine are absolutely different.
The Ukraine problem is an international problem, it is a European problem, a global problem.
It’s not a Russian problem.
We have to deal with it as we deal with any international problem.”
The Russian prime minister’s comments come amid an escalating conflict in Ukraine between pro-Russia forces and Ukrainian government forces.
“You are talking about the biggest nuclear issue on the planet, the biggest crisis on the world, an international crisis, a security crisis,” Putin was quoted as saying.
“And we are not thinking about this as a small problem.
And we are talking to the world about this, and we are thinking about it with all our might, and it’s a matter of life and death for everybody.”
Putin is due to meet with the heads of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations on Wednesday in Brussels.