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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.

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chiera65 March 04 2014 at 11:09 AM

Just how many Russian citizens are in the Crimea region? Anyone have an idea?

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2 replies
o6usaret chiera65 March 04 2014 at 11:16 AM

More than 65% of population in Crimean is Russian.

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1 reply
Larry o6usaret March 04 2014 at 11:22 AM

They're Russian by nationality but not by citizenship.

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trubia4 chiera65 March 04 2014 at 12:38 PM

It is 59% of the population there.

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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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Dennis Gilpin March 04 2014 at 9:59 AM

Putin needs a southern base, for so many reasons. With a naval base there, he has no intention of it being seized by anyone. He knows America is trying to get out of military conflicts overseas. Many feel this way. In the past, America used military power to make other nations back down. Not so much now with so many nations having nuclear arsenals. Much different world now and it seems Putin understands it better than Obama. Our country can ill afford to pour out more money to support other areas of the world. We are heavily in debt because of military conflicts which has drained us financially. Better to negotiate ( having the backing of the European community ) than to get into a military confrontation . With the world being so dangerous, we need a strong military in an event of conflict but use their power wisely.

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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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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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georgewashinton101 March 04 2014 at 11:32 AM

We should review the past and learn from mistakes. All countriies in the world have done wrong things time to time. Blame game must end and start positive thinking Obama & Putin both have to improve their vision for future. Both are rational leaders. Foreign politicians visiting Ukraine have to find better things to do than cause friction among Ukrainians. Give Ukrainian democratic due process chance to work. No body arbitrarily removed from power and lynchmobbed. I believe President Obama has to seize this historical moment and show the world what we stand for and extend hand of friendship. I am sure Putin will respond favorably. Russia feels threatened by by the build up of nuclear installations next its borders. Russia ia a democratic country which sided with us in WWI & WWII. If we treat Russia properly this world will be a much better place. Also let us not get into biddding game to sway Ukraine to certain camp. USA and Russia friendship can easily wipe out rogues like Al queda & Talibans.

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1 reply
ggilbpsy georgewashinton101 March 04 2014 at 11:50 AM

Russia is not democratic, you are naive. It is a nationalistic proto-fascist oligarchy.
Obama is wise, and will not work alone is without NATO allies, IMF, UN.
Seizing the moment must be on a collective level where open, monitored
elections are held and Ukraine remains a union with a semi-autonomous region in the east.
Russia to be dealt with properly requires a 'deal'. They respond to deals eg the Cuban
Missile crisis and Berlin etc. They have deep fears, insecurity and need for respect.

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1 reply
George ggilbpsy March 04 2014 at 12:17 PM

No, it is not an "american" democracy and doesn't want to be. Russia's historical process and the debilitating legacy of Communism is not the history of the United States. Democracy is not a "one size fits all" concept. And........Obama is wise???? Where's the proof?

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almazstmp March 04 2014 at 11:32 AM

U.S. foreign policy: We do whatever we please, others will do whatever we allow them.

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2 replies
acmeme almazstmp March 04 2014 at 11:40 AM

It sounds like dictaorship.

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eltrip almazstmp March 04 2014 at 12:39 PM

It was that way for a brief time when we were the only atomic power. Though for the last 55 years or so we've been chasing our shadow....

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mgbroy75 March 04 2014 at 11:33 AM

Okay, I'm not the biggest fan of Putin but the balls of this guy are gonna be in the Smithsonian one day! I wonder what it's like to clank when you walk? The iron curtain has been replaced by the iron scrotum

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2 replies
ht4cycle mgbroy75 March 04 2014 at 11:51 AM

Ignorance is bliss and your are in blissful land. What has putin done? He send troops to a place that is forgotten by Ukraine every day of the year except when Putting sent troops there. There is nothing there. It is 6000 diverse ethnic people eeking out a living and not very well. The town has nothing. The base he is protecting was abandoned by Russia after Ukraine became independent. Russia was able to keep the base but they took everything off the base. Just a few remained. It is a dump for the most part. Big balls? That was the easy way to make a statement without having to fire a single shot. You believe everything you read and I bet you have not done one ounce of research about the place. GEEESHHHH

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stuartmd mgbroy75 March 04 2014 at 11:51 AM

Funny

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George March 04 2014 at 11:34 AM

Why has no one asked the question: how are the Ukranians different from the Russians. Essentially it's a distinction without a difference. They are both Slavic people with a common root. Kiev was once the capitol of Russia and the center for Russian Christinaity. The word "ukraina" means on the edge or bordering. One could almost compare the American South as having a certain cultural distinction with the rest of the United States. In 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart, Ukranian politicians and Western Ukranians took advantage of of the collapse and claimed sovereignty and the population who did not want to be identified with the Soviet Union .

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1 reply
ggilbpsy George March 04 2014 at 11:44 AM

That is precisely what the Germans said as they entered the German speaking
region of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland. Like it or not Ukraine is a soverign nation,
a UN member, and has the right to work out its internal governing issues.
The US, though, has made many similar boneheaded moves eg Granada,
El Salvador and Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Iraq war #2. Hence we
have lost the moral high ground since Reagan and the Neo-cons who led Bush in the morass.

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1 reply
George ggilbpsy March 04 2014 at 11:52 AM

Why are so many Americans constantly comparing Putin to Hitler? Do you think that Slavic nations have forgotten the 20 million killed by Hitler's forces?

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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
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