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In televised address, Putin speculates about World War III, warns Ukraine against 'provocation

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual televised message with the nation Thursday in Moscow. His presentation lasted for four hours and 26 minutes. (Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images)

In his annual, pre-scripted televised question and answer session on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin speculated about the prospect of a "third world war," warned Ukraine about "provocations" during the World Cup, declared that he has no intention of leaving Syria at this time, and said that American trade policies would drive Europe closer to Russia.

The presentation lasted for four hours and 26 minutes, and aired on Russian state TV. Here are just some of the topics he addressed:

Wait, what about World War III?

Putin warned against "extreme steps" that could lead to another world war.

“[Albert] Einstein said the fourth world war will be fought with sticks and stones,” Putin said. “The understanding that a third world war could be the end of civilization should restrain us from taking extreme steps on the international arena that are highly dangerous for modern civilization.”

What about accusations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election?

"One of the very well-known publishers in Germany wrote that President [Donald] Trump is pushing Europe into Putin's hands," he said. "If you put it together with an earlier joke that Russia had influenced the U.S. election, all in all it sounds quite funny: We have allegedly meddled with the presidential election in the U.S. and Trump as a thank you has presented us with Europe. This is a complete nonsense. One can't call this anything else but a joke."

What did he say about the Sergei Skripal debacle?

On March 4, former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on a bench near a shopping center in Salisbury, England. British investigators determined that the two had been poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Russians during the cold war.

British Prime Minister Theresa May demanded that the Russian government explain how its custom-made nerve agent ended up in England. The Russian government responded by mocking May and accusing the British government of fabricating the incident.

On Thursday, Putin doubled down on this argument.

"If they were poisoned by military-grade poison, why did they not die?" he said. "If a military agent would have been used against these people, these people would die on the spot within seconds or minutes. Fortunately that did not happen. That means we are dealing with something different."

The Skripals spent months in a British hospital being treated for their exposure to Novichok.

Why did he warn Ukraine not to try anything during the World Cup?

Putin vaguely warned Ukraine not to try any "provocations" during the World Cup.

“I hope that things will not come to that," Putin said ominously. "If this happens I think it would have very serious consequences for the Ukrainian government in general.”

Russia will host the FIFA World Cup beginning on June 14.

What about the U.S. trade policies?

Putin said that Russia has been warning Europe about U.S. dominance for years, and "now, with the prospect of trade wars, Europe has begun to listen."

And what about plans to pull the Russian military out of Syria?

Putin addressed the Russian military presence in Syria.

"They are temporary but we will keep them there while it is necessary and is required by our economic interests," he said.

He also said that the Syrian campaign had allowed Russia "to adapt [advanced weaponry] to the needs of the battlefield."

One last thing…
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