Putin justifies potential military move in Ukraine

Moscow, March 2: Russian President Vladimir Putin has shared his assessment of the critical situation in Ukraine with several world leaders, justifying Moscow’s potential military move in that country, the Kremlin press service said Sunday.

In a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama, Xinhua cited Putin as saying that Russia retained the right to protect its interests and Russian speakers living in Ukraine if violence spread to eastern Ukrainian regions and the Crimea, an autonomous region that is the epicentre of the ongoing crisis.

Putin pointed to “real threats to life and health of Russian citizens and numerous compatriots living in that country”.

He attributed Russia’s possible military move to “provocative and criminal actions by ultra-nationalistic elements that are actually encouraged by current authorities in Kiev”, the Interfax news agency said.

Talking with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Putin said Russia could not stay aside if violent actions were taken against Russian speakers in eastern Ukrainian regions and Crimea.

Russia would take necessary measures according to international law, he added.

Both sides said further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine should be averted.

Putin also discussed ways of possible settlement of the situation and agreed to continue talks in another telephone conversation with his French counterpart Francois Hollande.

Russia’s parliament authorised Putin to use military forces to protect Russian interests in Ukraine Saturday.