Putin is really rubbing it in over Ukraine

PutinREUTERS/Laszlo BaloghRussian President Vladimir Putin addresses during a joint news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest February 17, 2015.

Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday pro-Moscow rebels should allow Ukrainian government forces safe passage out of the encircled eastern town of Debaltseve but Kiev should not prevent its troops from giving up their weapons.

The Russian president did not hold back when asserting how Russian-backed rebels were clearly winning near the crucial railway hub.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Putin said the fighting around Debaltseve was to be expected and that it was clear going into peace talks that Ukrainian soldiers were in trouble there.

The rebels and government forces were fighting in Debaltseve on Tuesday, dashing hopes that a European-brokered peace deal would end months of conflict.

Thousands of Ukrainian troops are surrounded there, their fate uncertain. The rebels said they had captured hundreds of them and would not let the rest escape unless they surrender.

Putin pulled no punches, going after Ukrainian President Petro Proshenko as well making accusations about the West.

“To lose is always painful. It’s a hardship especially when you lose to yesterday’s miners and tractor drivers. But life is life,” the Russian president reportedly said.

Speaking on the topic of weapons deliveries to Ukraine, he said: “The number of deaths may increase but the result will be the same as today.” He added that in terms of foreign arms to Ukraine, “they’re already being delivered” according to his information.

For it’s part, the US signaled that it has little desire to get directly involved by providing lethal assistance:

“Our belief here in the administration, and I would be surprised if others disagree, is that getting into a proxy war with Russia is not anything that’s in the interest of Ukraine or in the interest of the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “And certainly, as we weigh options, we weigh that as one of the factors.”

On energy, Putin said that the South Stream gas pipeline, that was to have pumped Russian gas under the Black Sea and into southern Europe, was torpedoed by European objections.

He said it could not be resurrected in its original form. He said though that if Brussels backs the idea, a spur could be built to connect Bulgaria, intended landing point for the South Stream route, to another pipeline Russia is planning.

Russia gas pipelineReutersMap of Europe showing planned gas pipelines in the region. Includes proposed Gazprom pipeline to Europe through Turkey.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn’t know your iPhone headphones could do

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.