Russia pulls all diplomats from Ukraine – but Putin claims he’s still open to talks

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is still open to diplomacy but will put its national security interests first.

He said the country would continue to bolster its military amid a “difficult international situation”.

In a video statement released to commemorate the annual Defender of the Fatherland Day, Mr Putin appeared to indirectly address the situation in Ukraine despite making no specific mention of the country.

“Our country is always open to a direct and honest dialogue and ready to search for diplomatic solutions to the most complicated issues,” he said.

“But I want to repeat that Russia’s interests and the security of our people are unconditional.

“So, we will continue to strengthen and modernise our army and navy.”

Russia is being targeted by sanctions from countries like the US and UK after Mr Putin declared that he recognised the independence of two separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine and sent in troops.

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“We can see the difficult international situation and the threats posed by current challenges, such as the erosion of the arms control system and NATO’s military activities,” Mr Putin said.

“And yet, Russia’s appeals to build a system based on equal and indivisible security that would reliably defend all countries, remain unanswered.”

Russia’s security service said it has foiled “an act of terrorism” in the annexed Crimea, the Ukrainian territory Russia annexed in 2014, according to the state-owned RIA news agency.

Six Russian citizens were arrested who were allegedly supporters of a Ukrainian extremist group, the news outlet said.