'Putin is stepping very close to being a fool', says ex-US ambassador to Russia

10 March 2022, 19:14 | Updated: 10 March 2022, 21:11

By Sophie Barnett

Former US ambassador to Russia has told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that Vladimir Putin is "stepping very close" to being a fool over his barbaric invasion of Ukraine.

Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador to Russia, said Putin "plays with fire and does it very grandly", warning he "needs to be stopped".

Mr Pickering, who was in office between 1993 and 1996, told Tonight with Andrew Marr: "I have not found Vladimir Putin a fool. But he is stepping very close to that line right now.

"I do know and believe, having watched things in Russia since the 90s very closely, that this is a man whose primary motivation is not a great Russian state as an international player.

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"It is to preserve Vladimir Putin in power," he went on to say.

"And so much of this you have to evaluate that way.

"His selection of nationalist policies, of spheres of influence, of military invasion, of splitting Europe and the United States, are all part playing to the nationalist crowd in Russia which, somehow, still likes Mr Putin."

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It comes as Russia's invasion in Ukraine entered its 15th day on Thursday, with humanitarian corridors having opened in several besieged Ukrainian regions.

However, bombardments continued in the city of Mariupol, forcing a humanitarian convoy trying to reach the region had to turn back, according to Ukraine.

No progress was said to have been made on a ceasefire after talks between the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia in Turkey either.