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Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

MOSCOW (AP) — Accusing the West of encouraging an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use its military to protect Russians there but hopes it won’t need to. The Russian leader’s first comments on Ukraine since its fugitive president fled came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s new government.

Putin declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions there will backfire.

“We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people,” Putin said, adding that the massive military maneuvers Russia had been doing involving 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s border had been previously planned and were unrelated to the current situation in Ukraine. He ordered the troops back to their bases.

The U.S. announced a $1 billion aid package Tuesday in energy subsidies to Ukraine, which faces a looming financial disaster. NATO members met in Brussels and announced that the alliance would hold talks Wednesday with Russian officials about Ukraine, while world markets rose, buoyed by Putin’s apparent efforts to de-escalate tensions.

“We are going to do our best (to help you). We are going to try very hard,” Kerry said upon arriving in Kiev. “We hope Russia will respect the election that you are going to have.”

Ukraine’s finance minister, who says the country needs $35 billion to get through this year and next, was meeting with International Monetary Fund officials.

Tensions remained high in Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. Heavily armed pro-Russian forces took over the strategic peninsula on Saturday, surrounding its ferry, military bases and border posts. Two Ukrainian warships remained anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, blocked from leaving by Russian ships.

The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, which Putin does not recognize, has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea, which Putin denies.

“Those unknown people without insignia who have seized administrative buildings and airports … what we are seeing is a kind of velvet invasion,” Russian military analyst Alexander Golts told The Associated Press in Moscow.

Yet world markets seemed to recover from their fright over Ukraine, clawing back a large chunk of Monday’s stock losses, while oil, gold, wheat and the Japanese yen gave back some of their gains. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 200 points Tuesday on the news that Putin had pulled back troops from Ukraine’s border.

“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 still considers Viktor Yanukovych to be Ukraine’s president and hopes that Russia won’t need to use force in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia had no intention of annexing Crimea, but insisted its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for later this month.

Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power and put Ukraine’s future in turmoil.

“We have told them a thousand times `Why are you splitting the country?'” he said.

Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and said Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.

At the House of Commons in London, British Foreign Minister William Hague rejected Putin’s arguments.

`’The suggestion that a president who has fled his country then has any authority whatsoever to invite the forces of a neighboring country into that country is baseless,” he told U.K. lawmakers.

Ukraine’s dire finances were a key issue in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power. On Tuesday, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said it will cancel a price discount on gas it sells to Ukraine. Russia had offered the discount in December as part of Russian help for Ukraine. Gazprom also said Ukraine owes it $1.5 billion.

Crimea still remained a potential flashpoint. Pro-Russian troops who had taken control of the Belbek air base in Crimea fired warning shots into the air Tuesday as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.

About a dozen 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.

Park of the same compound was still being held by Ukrainians.

“We are worried. But we will not give up our base,” said Capt. Nikolai Syomko, an air force radio electrician holding an AK-47 and patrolling the back of the compound. He said the soldiers felt they were being held hostage, caught between Russia and Ukraine.

The new Ukrainian government says troops that have overtaken Belbek and other Ukrainian military bases across Crimea were Russian, but Putin denied it, saying they were self-defense forces answering to Crimea’s pro-Russian regional government.

Putin said the 22,000-strong Ukrainian force in Crimea has dissolved and its arsenals have fallen into the hands of the local government. Those officials claimed Tuesday that 5,500 Ukrainian soldiers had switched their allegiance from Kiev to them and said they were seeking to move up a vote planned for March 30 on the region’s status.

Russia is demanding the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal that Yanukovych signed with the opposition last month that set a new Ukrainian presidential election no later than December. Yanukovych fled the capital hours after the signing and ended up in Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament then set the vote for May 25.

The EU’s 28 heads of state and government will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to decide whether to impose sanctions against Russia.

John Herbst, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who now is director of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University, told the AP it was a critical time for Europe.

“It’s a breach of international law, of national sovereignty, by a major power,” Herbst said about Russia’s actions in Crimea. “We haven’t seen such a breach in Europe since the Nazis.”

Sullivan reported from Crimea. Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Raul Gallego in Crimea contributed to this report.

Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

MOSCOW (AP) — Accusing the West of encouraging an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use its military to protect Russians there but voiced hope it won’t need to do so. The Russian leader’s first comments on Ukraine since its fugitive president fled to Russia came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s new government.

Putin declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions there will backfire. Both the U.S. and the 28-nation European Union have raised the possibility of sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. announced a $1 billion aid package Tuesday in energy subsidies to Ukraine, which is scrambling to get international loans to fend off looming bankruptcy. Its finance minister, who has said Ukraine needs $35 billion to get through this year and next, was meeting Tuesday with officials from the International Monetary Fund.

Tensions remained high Tuesday in Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. Russia took over the strategic peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the peninsula’s ferry, military bases and border posts. Two Ukrainian warships remained anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, blocked from leaving by Russian ships.

The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, which Putin does not recognize, has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea.

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 gave 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,” David Madden, market analyst at IG, said Tuesday.

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

“We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people,” Putin said, adding that the massive military maneuvers Russia has been doing near Ukraine’s border had been planned and were unrelated to the situation in Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, Putin had ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in those exercises to return to their bases – some 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of aircraft in all.

Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia had no intention of annexing Crimea, but insisted its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for later this month.

Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power and put Ukraine’s future in turmoil.

“We have told them a thousand times `Why are you splitting the country?'” he said.

Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and said Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.

Ukraine’s dire finances were a key issue in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power. On Tuesday, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said it will cancel a price discount on gas it sells to Ukraine. Russia had offered the discount in December as part of Russian help for Ukraine. Gazprom also said Ukraine owes it $1.5 billion.

Crimea still remained a potential flashpoint. Pro-Russian troops who had taken control of the Belbek air base in Crimea fired warning shots into the air Tuesday as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.

About a dozen 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 new Ukrainian government has said the troops that have overtaken Belbek and other Ukrainian military bases across Crimea were Russian, but Putin denied it, saying they were self-defense forces answering to Crimea’s pro-Russian regional government.

Putin said 22,000 Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea have “dispersed.” He didn’t explain if that meant they had just left their posts or if they had switched allegiances from Kiev to the local pro-Russian government. Those officials claimed Tuesday that 5,500 Ukrainian soldiers had pledged allegiance to them and said they were seeking to move up a vote planned for March 30 on the region’s status.

At the United Nations in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under the agreement.

Russia is demanding the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal that Yanukovych signed with the opposition last month that set a new Ukrainian presidential election no later than December. Yanukovych fled the capital hours after the signing and ended up in Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament then set the vote for May 25.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member nations held another emergency meeting on Ukraine at the request of Poland, which borders both Russia and Ukraine. The alliance said it and Russia agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting Wednesday.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine violates the U.N. charter and threatens peace and security in Europe.

President Barack Obama has said Russia is “on the wrong side of history” in Ukraine and its actions violate international law. Obama says the U.S. is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia.

In return, Russia’s agricultural oversight agency on Tuesday reversed 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.

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 in Crimea pull back over the next three days. The bloc’s 28 heads of state and government will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to decide whether to impose sanctions against Russia.

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

Sullivan reported from Crimea. Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Raul Gallego in Crimea contributed to this report.

Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

MOSCOW (AP) — Accusing the West of encouraging an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use its military to protect Russians there but voiced hope it won’t need to do so. The Russian leader’s first comments on Ukraine since its fugitive president fled to Russia came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s new government.

Putin declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions there will backfire. Both the U.S. and the 28-nation European Union have raised the possibility of sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. announced a $1 billion aid package Tuesday in energy subsidies to Ukraine, which is scrambling to get international loans to fend off looming bankruptcy. Its finance minister, who has said Ukraine needs $35 billion to get through this year and next, was meeting Tuesday with officials from the International Monetary Fund.

Tensions remained high Tuesday in Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. Russia took over the strategic peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the peninsula’s ferry, military bases and border posts. Two Ukrainian warships remained anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, blocked from leaving by Russian ships.

The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, which Putin does not recognize, has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea.

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 gave 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,” David Madden, market analyst at IG, said Tuesday.

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

“We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people,” Putin said, adding that the massive military maneuvers Russia has been doing near Ukraine’s border had been planned and were unrelated to the situation in Ukraine.

Earlier in the day, Putin had ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in those exercises to return to their bases – some 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of aircraft in all.

Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia had no intention of annexing Crimea, but insisted its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for later this month.

Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power and put Ukraine’s future in turmoil.

“We have told them a thousand times `Why are you splitting the country?'” he said.

Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and said Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.

Ukraine’s dire finances were a key issue in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power. On Tuesday, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said it will cancel a price discount on gas it sells to Ukraine. Russia had offered the discount in December as part of Russian help for Ukraine. Gazprom also said Ukraine owes it $1.5 billion.

Crimea still remained a potential flashpoint. Pro-Russian troops who had taken control of the Belbek air base in Crimea fired warning shots into the air Tuesday as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.

About a dozen 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 new Ukrainian government has said the troops that have overtaken Belbek and other Ukrainian military bases across Crimea were Russian, but Putin denied it, saying they were self-defense forces answering to Crimea’s pro-Russian regional government.

Putin said 22,000 Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea have “dispersed.” He didn’t explain if that meant they had just left their posts or if they had switched allegiances from Kiev to the local pro-Russian government. Those officials claimed Tuesday that 5,500 Ukrainian soldiers had pledged allegiance to them and said they were seeking to move up a vote planned for March 30 on the region’s status.

At the United Nations in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under the agreement.

Russia is demanding the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal that Yanukovych signed with the opposition last month that set a new Ukrainian presidential election no later than December. Yanukovych fled the capital hours after the signing and ended up in Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament then set the vote for May 25.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member nations held another emergency meeting on Ukraine at the request of Poland, which borders both Russia and Ukraine. The alliance said it and Russia agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting Wednesday.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine violates the U.N. charter and threatens peace and security in Europe.

President Barack Obama has said Russia is “on the wrong side of history” in Ukraine and its actions violate international law. Obama says the U.S. is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia.

In return, Russia’s agricultural oversight agency on Tuesday reversed 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.

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 in Crimea pull back over the next three days. The bloc’s 28 heads of state and government will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to decide whether to impose sanctions against Russia.

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

Sullivan reported from Crimea. Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Raul Gallego in Crimea contributed to this report.

Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

MOSCOW (AP) — Accusing the West of encouraging an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use its military to protect Russians there but voiced hope it won’t need to do so. The Russian leader’s first comments on Ukraine since its fugitive president fled to Russia came just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s new government.

Putin declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions in Ukraine will backfire. Both the U.S. and the 28-nation European Union have raised the possibility of sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, announced an aid package Tuesday of $1 billion in energy subsidies to Ukraine, which is scrambling to get international loans to fend off looming bankruptcy. It’s finance minister says Ukraine needs $35 billion to get through this year and next.

Tensions remained high Tuesday in Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. Russia took over the peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the peninsula’s ferry, military bases and border posts.

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 gave 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,” David Madden, market analyst at IG, said Tuesday.

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

“We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people,” Putin said, adding that the massive military maneuvers Russia has been doing had been planned earlier and were unrelated to the situation in Ukraine.

Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Ukraine’s strategic peninsula of Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia has no intentions of annexing Crimea, but insisted its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for later this month.

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.

Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power and put Ukraine’s future in turmoil.

“We have told them a thousand times: Why are you splitting the country?” he said.

Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and said Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.

Ukraine’s dire finances have been a key issue in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power.

On Tuesday, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said it will cancel a price discount on gas it sells to Ukraine. Russia had offered the discount in December following Yanukovych’s decision to ditch a pact with the EU. Gazprom also said Ukraine owes it $1.5 billion.

The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, which Putin does not recognize, has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea.

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

About a dozen 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.

Ukrainians said the troops that have overtaken Belbek and other Ukrainian military bases across Crimea, but Putin denied it, saying they were self-defense forces answering the pro-Russian regional government.

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, a charge Russia denies.

At the United Nations in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Monday 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 “they are acting in a way they consider necessary to protect their facilities and prevent extremist actions.”

Russia is demanding the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal that Yanukovych signed with the opposition last month that set a new presidential election no later than December. The Russian envoy at those talks did not sign the deal. Yanukovych fled the capital hours after signing the deal and ended up in Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament then set the 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, blocked from leaving by Russian ships.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member nations were to 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 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.

In return, Russia’s agricultural oversight agency on Tuesday reversed 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.

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 Thursday to decide whether to impose sanctions against Russia if there is no de-escalation on the ground.

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

Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

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.

Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

MOSCOW (AP) — Accusing the West of encouraging an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians there. The Russian leader’s first comments since Ukraine’s fugitive president fled to Russia last month came just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was flying to Kiev to meet with Ukraine’s new government.

Putin also declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine onto anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions in Ukraine there will backfire.

Tensions remained high Tuesday in Crimea, with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. Russia took over the peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the peninsula’s ferry, military bases and border posts.

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,” David Madden, market analyst at IG, said Tuesday.

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

“We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people,” Putin said, adding that the massive maneuvers he ordered last week had been planned earlier and were unrelated to the situation in Ukraine.

Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia has no intentions of annexing Crimea, but insisted that its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for this month.

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.

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 and putting Ukraine on the verge of breakup.

“We have told them a thousand times: Why are you splitting the country?” he said.

Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.

Ukraine’s dire finances have been a key issue in the protests that drove Yanukovych from power.

On Tuesday, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said it will cancel a price discount on gas it sells to Ukraine. Russia had offered the discount in December following Yanukovych’s decision to ditch a pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Gazprom also said Ukraine owes it $1.5 billion.

The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev 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, pro-Russian troops who had taken control of the Belbek air base in Crimea fired warning shots into the air as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.

About a dozen 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.

Ukrainians said the troops that have overtaken Belbek and other Ukrainian military bases across Crimea, but Putin denied it, saying they were self-defense forces answering the pro-Russian regional government.

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 it was acting within the terms of the deal.

At the United Nations in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Monday 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 “they are acting in a way they consider necessary to protect their facilities and prevent extremist actions.”

Russia is demanding the implementation of a Western-sponsored peace deal that Yanukovych 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.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member nations were to 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 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 on Tuesday reversed 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.

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 Thursday that will decide whether to impose sanctions against Russia if there is no de-escalation on the ground.

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

Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Putin: Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

KDWN

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.

Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.