MOSCOW, March 4 (UPI) -- Speaking publicly for the first time since Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed former president of Ukraine, fled to Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed reporters on Tuesday regarding military intervention into Ukraine.
Putin said it was "unnecessary" to deploy Russian troops into Ukraine, and asserted that the soldiers occupying Crimea are not Russian but rather local, pro-Russian "self-defense" forces. The uniforms, he acknowledged, may resemble Russian uniforms but he explained that former Soviet countries had similar uniforms readily available for purchase in stores.
When asked Tuesday under what circumstances he would order the deployment of Russian troops into Ukraine, Putin replied "What can be the justification for using the armed forces? Certainly, extreme circumstances."
Putin did not elaborate on what would constitute "extreme circumstances."
On Saturday, Putin requested and received approval from the Federation Council to use force in Ukraine. He described the request as "a humanitarian mission" to Ukraine, with which it has "fraternal ties."
Putin maintained that Russia has no intention of annexing Ukraine's mostly pro-Russian Crimea region.
He also objected to criticism levied by the U.S. and many European leaders for "The presence of unidentified forces in Ukraine" that were construed as Russian forces, and said that retributive actions such as sanctions against Russia would be mutually harmful.
[The Moscow Times] [Interfax Ukraine News Agency]