Putin defends right to use force in Ukraine, says military action would be ‘last resort’

BY Justin Scuiletti  March 4, 2014 at 3:56 PM EDT
LUBIMOVKA, UKRAINE

Soldiers under Russian command look on from a military vehicle at the Russian occupied Belbek airbase as Russian-led troops blockaded a number of Ukrainian military bases across Crimea, on March 4, 2014 in Lubimovka, Ukraine. Ukrainians troops, stationed at their garrison nearby, confronted the Russian soldiers unarmed today. The Russian-led troops fired their weapons into the air but then granted Colonel Yuli Mamchor, commander of the Ukrainian military, negotiations with their commander. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

President Barack Obama addressed the situation in Ukraine at the end of his budget proposal talk Tuesday in Washington. Obama said that Russia’s presence would push countries further away from them and that there was an ability for Ukraine to be both a friend of the West and of Russia.


Update 12:53 p.m. EST

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in Kiev on the crisis.


Update 12:13 p.m. EST
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev Tuesday to show support for the new Ukrainian government, pledging $1 billion in loan guarantees and assistance.


Update 11:09 a.m. EST

Video by Associated Press

Russian troops fired warning shots into the air at the Belbek air base in the Crimea region of Ukraine Tuesday as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, demanded their jobs at the field back.


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia reserves the right to use force in Ukraine in order to protect Russian compatriots in the country. Such actions, he said however, were not yet necessary and would be a “last resort.”

Putin, speaking for the first time on the situation since Russian forces entered the Crimean peninsula, defended the presence of troops there as a measure to defend Russia’s military installation that houses its Black Sea Fleet. Calling the collapse of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government an “unconstitutional coup,” Putin said the further use of force in Ukraine would be allowed under international law, as Yanukovych — who Putin referred to as Ukraine’s only legitimate leader — had requested the aid.

Putin also brushed off threats of economic sanctions from Western powers, saying such action would be “mutually harmful.”