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Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

Russia Orders Troops in Drills Back to Their Bases

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday yet said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in Ukraine. He accused the West of encouraging an anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine and driving it onto anarchy and declared that any sanctions the West places on Russia will backfire.

It was Putin's first comments since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev last month and landed in Russia. Ukraine's new government wants to put him on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests in Kiev.

Tensions remained high Tuesday in the strategic Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was en route to Kiev, where Ukraine's new government is based.

Yet world markets seemed to recover from their fright over the situation in Ukraine, clawing back a large chunk of Monday's stock losses, while oil, gold, wheat and the Japanese yen have given back some of their gains.

"Confidence in equity markets has been restored as the standoff between Ukraine and Russia is no longer on red alert," said David Madden, market analyst at IG.

Speaking from his residence outside Moscow, Putin said he considers Yanukovych to still be Ukraine's leader and hopes that Russia won't need to use force in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

He did say, however, that Yanukovych has no political future and Russia gave him shelter only to save his life.

Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych's decision in November to ditch a pact with the 28-nation European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power.

Earlier Tuesday, the Kremlin said Putin had ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's border to return to their bases. The massive military exercise in western Russia involving 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of aircraft was supposed to wrap up anyway, so it was not clear if Putin's move was an attempt to heed the West's call to de-escalate the crisis that has put Ukraine's future on the line.

It came as Kerry was on his way to Kiev to meet with the new Ukrainian leadership that deposed the pro-Russian Yanukovych and has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, insists it made the move in order to protect Russian installations in Ukraine and its citizens living there.

On Tuesday, Russian troops who had taken control of the Belbek air base in the hotly contests Crimea region fired warning shots into the air as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.

About a dozen Russian soldiers at the base warned the Ukrainians, who were marching unarmed, not to approach. They fired several warning shots into the air and said they would shoot the Ukrainians if they continued to march toward them.

The shots reflected tensions running high in the Black Sea peninsula since Russian troops - estimated by Ukrainian authorities to be 16,000 strong -tightened their grip over the weekend on the Crimean peninsula, where Moscow's Black Sea Fleet is based.

Ukraine has accused Russia of violating a bilateral agreement on conditions of a Russian lease of a naval base in Crimea that restricts troop movements, but Russia has argued that it was acting within the limits set by the deal.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said Monday at the U.N. Security Council that Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under the agreement. Churkin didn't specify how many Russian troops are now stationed in Crimea, but said that "they are acting in a way they consider necessary to protect their facilities and prevent extremist actions."

Churkin said Russia wasn't trying to ensure the return to power of Yanukovych, but still considers him the legitimate leader of Ukraine and demands the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal he signed with the opposition that set presidential elections for December. Russian envoy at those talks did not sign the deal. Yanukovych fled the capital hours after the deal was signed and ended up in Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament set the presidential vote for May 25.

In Crimea, a supposed Russian ultimatum for two Ukrainian warships to surrender or be seized passed without action from either side, as the two ships remained anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Vladimir Anikin said late Monday that no ultimatum had been issued.

The maneuvers, which Putin ordered last Wednesday, involved scrambling fighter jets to patrol Russia's western frontiers and stoked fears that the Kremlin might send troops into Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the ambassadors of NATO's 28 member nations will hold a second emergency meeting on Ukraine on Tuesday after Poland, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, invoked an article calling for consultations when a nation sees its "territorial integrity, political independence or security threatened."

President Barack Obama has said that Russia is "on the wrong side of history" in Ukraine and its actions violate international law. Obama said the U.S. was considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia, and called on Congress to work on an aid package for Ukraine.

In return, Russia's agricultural oversight agency issued a statement Tuesday declaring the reversal of its earlier decision to lift the ban on imports of U.S. pork. It said the existing U.S. system of checks don't guarantee its safety.

Putin's economic advisor, Sergei Glazyev, said that Russia can develop financial ties with other nations to offset any potential Western sanctions.

The European Union's foreign ministers on Monday threatened Moscow with halting talks on visa liberalization and negotiations on further economic cooperation unless Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula pull back over the next three days.

The bloc's 28 heads of state and government will hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Ukraine on Thursday that will decide on imposing the sanctions if there is no de-escalation on the ground.

Join the discussion

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a392bb March 04 2014 at 8:22 AM

Here we go again 1962

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1 reply
jjemder a392bb March 04 2014 at 8:28 AM

Ahhh, JFK. Now there was a great leader. I wish we could find someone like that today. Vision, leadership and big cajones.

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2 replies
tortugatommie jjemder March 04 2014 at 8:35 AM

JFK was the last President who really cared about the American people.

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Kim Schreiber jjemder March 04 2014 at 8:38 AM

Ahhh., remember the Bay of Pigs?? Try again, but this time come up with someone who really made a difference - Ronald Reagan.

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Michael March 04 2014 at 8:32 AM

If Yanukovych is to be put on trial for the deaths of the opposition, what about the opposition people that threw the firebombs on the police, and killed the police they also are Ukraine citizens that would at that time only standing as a human barricade. The opposition turned also to violence. Check all of the pictures that are online and if someone wants to be judge then judge from the pictures. The opposition leader escalated the situation for their gains and did not care at what cost the Ukraine People paid. Yanukovych may be evil but the opposition leaders escalated the violence, when they should have control the protest and kept the Ukraine people peaceful. If one is to be put on trial then they all should be. Ukraine will have no peace for a long time there are too many “leader” that want to be in power and those men and women will continue to use the citizens of the Ukraine for their personal gains. BUT ISN’T THAT THE USE IT IS IN ALL COUNTRIES, GUESS WE SHOULD JUST LEAVE UKRAINE ALONE TO LIVE AS THE REST OF THE WORLD, WITH LEADERS THAT WILL DO AND SAY ANYTHING TO GET AND KEEP THEIR POWER. KINDA REMINDS ME OF THE USA.

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sttlkng1 March 04 2014 at 11:32 AM

So far, no lives were lost or anyone wounded over Putin's move into Crimea to protest its bases and citizens and ethnic Russians.

Now compare that to the mob actions in Kiev. The Ukrainian president had a right to make ties with both the west and the east and he did. But he also attempted to work with the opposition and made many appointments to reflect that and signed an agreement with the opposition that they quickly rejected. The opposition is the ones acting unlawfully.

Meanwhile obama shoots off his mouth without thinking, as usual. Did Valarie give him permission to speak about Russia?

But obama shouts on about the rule of law while he continually flaunts the rule of law in America and not only threatens to go around Congress, he continually makes law that only Congress is entitled to do.

Putin is unfortunately doing the right thing and taking action to protect Russia's interests in Ukraine while obama is doing the wrong thing, again.

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1 reply
mantoon3 sttlkng1 March 04 2014 at 11:50 AM

"......protect Russia's interests in Ukraine........" ???
Unfortunately, Putin's interest in Ukraine is to capture it and add it to his new Russian empire.
Ukraine was moving toward freedom and the people wanted to be part of the European Union.
A few years ago, he captured part of the country of Georgia. Georgia survived by fighting.
Expect Putin to "save" the rest of Ukraine by invading and annexing it.
Putin is a thug and a dictator.

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amikebec March 04 2014 at 11:31 AM

More slight of hand tricks to distract the people from looking at real issues being passed through congress while we look the other way.....!!! The media is a tool...!!!

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copperking59 March 04 2014 at 11:30 AM

I would bet we have subs near by that would take care of 150000 troops very easy but we should not be the worlds police. We cant even take care of the un finish problems we have! Iraq, North Korea, etc

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jimwilhelm1 March 04 2014 at 11:29 AM

Why not split off the Russian majority area of the Crimean and let Putin have it. He would then have no reason to keep rattling his saber. He would have his warm-water port and his Russian citizens would be "safe" from the "imperialistic" West.

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3 replies
Manny Gutierrez March 04 2014 at 11:27 AM

Seems to me that this fiasco is a Russian- Ukrainian problem that needs to be settled in their legal system without military intervention.The United States should stay on the alert should the problems get out of control ,to protect our allies and our citizens abroad.But should not get involved in legal disputes that are not us territorial interests. With War on the Horizon ,There are no Winners in this world today.We need to focus on our Personal situations here in the US and protect our Homeland and it's people whom Come First anyway . That's all I have to say . Thank You

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Mike March 04 2014 at 11:22 AM

We have been paving the way for these things to happen. Do we forget that about 30 years ago, we, the free and the brave, invaded Grenada, ending that Caribbean island nation's four-year socialist experiment, with the excuse of protecting a handful of American citizens? The island nation is no bigger than Martha's Vineyard, with a population that could barely fill the Rose Bowl.

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rschli7137 March 04 2014 at 11:22 AM

Actually, Russia is correct. The 1997 treaty between Ukraine and Russia allows for up to 25,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. maybe we don't like it, but that's the agreement. Not much we can do about it anyway. Sanctions would be very limited unless the EU goes along with us. Can't even think of anything militarily, we'd get our butts kicked. So we shake our fists, rattle our sabres and maybe boycott any meetings with them.

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1 reply
esteban rschli7137 March 04 2014 at 11:29 AM

Russia will lose just like Hitler did...

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coldh2oranch March 04 2014 at 11:21 AM

JOIN NATO....All this will go away....Putin will not go to war with NATO forces...The answer is simple...

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