Vladimir Putin Seen As 'Weak' By Russia's Top Allies; Russia Reinforces Crimea Naval Base

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, December 18, 2014. The rouble edged lower against the dollar on Thursday, with traders saying Putin had offered few concrete measures at his end-of-year news confer
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, December 18, 2014. The rouble edged lower against the dollar on Thursday, with traders saying Putin had offered few concrete measures at his end-of-year news conference to pull Russia out of a crisis. Reuters/Stringer

As Russia's economy is on the verge of collapse, top allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin have distanced themselves from the country in favour of Ukraine. Kazakhstan, one of Russia's main supporters, has recently renewed its military ties with Ukraine after Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko visited Kiev the day before.

According to Fox News, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told reporters after a meeting with Kazakh colleague in Kiev that both will renew their military cooperation. He explained that the renewal did not involve Ukraine importing weapons to fight pro-Russian separatists. However, it will help Kazakhstan boost its national defences.

In exchange for Ukraine's help, Nazarbayev announced that it will export coal to Ukraine which is experiencing serious supply issues since pro-Russian separatists control most of the country's coal mines in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Nazarbayev also said in the meeting that he is willing to mediate in the eastern Ukraine conflict. He urged both Russia and Ukraine to seek a compromise to end the crisis and maintain the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He believes Ukraine and Russia should resume trade relations but since Ukraine is close to Europe, signing EU's Pack of Association was "perfectly understandable."

Following the news of a military cooperation between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the Kremlin declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin would discuss the pacification of both countries. Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Nazarbayev has always defended the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine despite Russia's annexation of Crimea. Belarussian President Lukashenko had hosted major peace talks in September in an attempt to arrive at a compromise between parties.  

A senior Ukrainian official has told AFP that both the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan are trying to distance themselves from the Kremlin as they seek alliances in Europe. The unnamed official said both leaders said Mr Putin "is weak." Russian political analysts agree with the view as top Russian allies may be afraid that siding with Russia might involve them in its economic crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia has completed the rebuilding of its naval base in Crimea which was a part of its Black Sea Fleet until 1996. A headquarters representative told media about the reconstituted base with new units to provide protection from the Black Sea from the enemy's assault ships, TASS reported. 

Russia has repeatedly declared in public that the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine was aligned with the UN Charter, international law and similar to the precedent set by Kosovo when it seceded from Serbia in 2008. The U.S. and its Western allies including Kiev have refused to recognise Crimea's reunification with Russia.