MOSCOW, March 1 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with U.S. President Barack Obama for 90 minutes on Saturday regarding the situation in Ukraine.
Both the Kremlin and the White House provided read-outs of the phone call that occurred hours after Russia's Upper House of Parliament voted to approve Putin's request to send Russian military forces to Ukraine.
According to the Kremlin's account, Putin responded to Obama's expressed concern regarding the possibility of Russian military intervention into Ukraine by claiming concern for "the lives and health of Russian citizens" residing in Ukraine and blaming "ultranationalists" for the instability in Ukraine's Crimea region.
"Vladimir Putin drew his attention to the provocative and criminal actions on the part of ultranationalists who are in fact being supported by the current authorities in Kiev."
The Russian government has refused to recognize Ukraine's newly appointed interim government following the impeachment of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22, who since fled Ukraine and sought refuge in Russia.
With regard to the possibility of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Putin asserted Russia's "right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking populations" should there be "any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea."