Russian President Vladimir Putin has described European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow over its interference in Ukraine as "absurd."
In an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper published on January 11, Putin said, "What the European Union is doing with those sanctions is nothing but a theater of the absurd."
Putin also added that sanctions were "severely harming Russia" on international financial markets.
He contended that a Russian-orchestrated referendum in which people in Crimea voted to separate from Ukraine and join Russia was "democracy, the people's will."
The vote, held after Russian forces entered the peninsula, was denounced as illegal by 100 countries in a UN vote.
Putin rejected criticism of Moscow's role in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,000 people, saying Kyiv has failed to adequately implement a peace deal signed in Minsk in February 2015.
Putin also hit out at NATO's enlargement following the 1991 Soviet breakup, saying the alliance's inclusion of countries close to Russia exacerbated tensions.
"NATO and the U.S. wanted a complete victory over the Soviet Union," he said. "They wanted to sit on the throne in Europe alone."
Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters