The conflict between Russia and the west has continued to escalate over the course of the past few months. The west has accused Russia of providing pro-Russian separatists with training, weapons, and support as the "civil war" has waged on, claiming over 2,000 lives in the process. Most recently, both Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of a "direct" and "large scale" invasion of eastern Ukraine. NATO has provided satellite images (images here) which purportedly show over 5,000 Russian troops amassed around the border and another 1,000 troops actively engaged in battle near rebel-held cities in eastern Ukraine.

Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, claims the satellite images are "images from a computer game" used as propaganda to get the rest of the world to believe Russia has invaded the country. Russia has adamantly denied both supporting pro-Russian rebels and sending Russian troops into Ukraine.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, spoke at a pro-Kremlin youth camp and sounded outright cocky about his country's position in the world. He prefaced his talk to the youth with the notion that Russia is not interested in "large-scale conflict" but later said Russia is "strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces and our armed forces."

Putin also stated foreign states should understand, "It's best not to mess with us." Putin continued: "Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers."

It sure does not sound like the Russian President has any desire to help de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. In fact, it sounds as if he is brazenly challenging the west to try and stop him from achieving whatever goals he might have. Putin has taken a strong stance not only about his political position on Ukraine, but about his country's position in the world. Putin has accused Kiev of creating a "humanitarian crisis" and even compared the countries "war" on its own people to the Nazi's actions during WWII.

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Photo Credit: AP