Vladimir Putin said there’s no immediate need for Russia to invade eastern Ukraineas the Obama administration prepares sanctions to punish him for military action in the southern region of Crimea.
In his first public remarks since protesters overthrew Viktor Yanukovych last month, President Putin reserved the right to use force to protect ethnic Russians, though said there’s “no such necessity” at present. Troops stationed in Crimea, where Russia keeps its Black Sea fleet, have only been securing their bases, according to Putin.
“The use of the military is an extreme case,” he told reporters at his residence near Moscow. “But we have a direct request from a legitimate president, Yanukovych, on military aid to protect Ukrainian citizens.”
Russia is tussling with the West for influence over Ukraine, which claims its former Soviet master seized control of Crimea by deploying troops to block army bases and airports. The U.S. and Europe have threatened sanctions against Russia and are racing to seal billions of dollars of aid to help the new administration in Kiev avoid bankruptcy. Russia says Ukraine owes state-controlled energy giant OAO Gazprom $2 billion.
As Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev for talks with the new government, officials traveling with him said sanctions such as travel and asset bans on Russian individuals and institutions are likely within days if Russia doesn’t de-escalate its actions in Ukraine and return its forces to barracks. They spoke on condition they not be named because the penalties aren’t finalized.
Putin’s comments signal the crisis, the worst between Russia and the West since the Cold War ended, won’t immediately escalate. The standoff roiled markets as Russia held military exercises on Ukraine’s eastern border. The drills ended today….”Twitter