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Vladimir Putin risks becoming an international pariah over the Ukraine crisis but the Russian president is battening down the hatches for the gathering economic and political storm. The United States and the European Union saw the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 as a chance for Putin to distance himself from pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine and seal the border across which they say arms are reaching the rebels. Instead Putin has stood firm, blamed the crash on his pro-Western protagonists in Kiev and signaled no change in his stance, leaving Russia facing the threat of much tougher international sanctions and economic and political isolation.



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