President Putin Denies Sending Troops into Ukraine
Russia is not sending troops into Ukraine, but reserves the right to use "all means" to protect its citizens in the country, according to President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian President announced this at a news conference on Tuesday, also denying that Russian soldiers seized power in Crimea and ascribing the action to "local forces of self-defense", as the BBC reports.
Putin made it clear he was not thinking of annexing Crimea, but believed in the population's right to self-determination.
He also said that Russian force will only be used on the peninsula as a last resort.
Putin defended the Russian Parliament's approval that soldiers could be sent to the Ukrainian region Crimea to protect ethnic Russian majority by repeating Moscow's stance that the "legitimate president" of the country had asked for help. This was firstly declared by Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin on Monday night, when he showed to the UN Security Council a letter by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych asking the Kremlin for an intervention.
President Putin described the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych as "an anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power". He insisted that Russia supports eradicating corruption and cronyism, but only through "constitutional and legitimate" changes.
Putin asserted, however, that according to him Yanukovych has no political future and "would have been killed in Ukraine" if he hadn't been helped by Moscow.
Moscow will not recognize the outcome of the May 25 presidential election if the "terror" continues in Ukraine, the Russian President declared.
Putin also warned against possible Western sanctions, which he deemed "counterproductive and harmful".
Regarding the upcoming G8 meeting in Sochi and the boycott most members have declared, he claimed that if Western leaders did not want to come, they didn't need to.
Since the beginning of March, Ukraine maintains that Russia has sent thousands of extra troops into Crimea. Tensions have been reported across the peninsula, including near Russian air and naval military bases, and the new leadership in Kiev states Russia has conducted "an armed invasion".
Later on Tuesday, meetings between Western and Russian top diplomats are to be held over the Ukrainian crisis.
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