Ukraine latest: President Putin warns Russia reserves all rights to protect citizens after 'anti-constitutional coup'

Russian President warns any sanctions from West would be 'counter-productive'

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the unrest in Ukraine as an “anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power” and said Russia will reserve all rights to protect citizens in the eastern part of the country.

In his first press conference since the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, a seemingly relaxed Mr Putin said there was currently no need to send Russian troops into eastern Ukraine.

However, describing the country as Russia’s "closest neighbour, our fraternal nation”, he warned Russia would take all measures necessary to protect Ukraine's citizens if they requested help.

“They [Ukrainian citizens] are upset by such lawlessness, and if we see that such lawlessness in eastern regions, and people ask for our assistance, we allow ourselves all measures necessary to protect these citizens.”

But he insisted that any intervention would be used legitimately as a last resort and would be within the framework of international law.

Responding to the potential threat of sanctions from the US and its Western allies, Mr Putin warned that "in this tightly connected world we can of course harm each other - but it will be mutual harm, and they need to think about that."

Any threats against Russia would be "counter-productive", he added.

During the news conference in his Moscow residence, Mr Putin said Russia would provide financial assistance to Crimea, but refused to reveal how much.

He asserted that Mr Yanukovych is still the legitimate president of Ukraine and warned Ukraine had made a serious mistake by going “beyond the constitutional field”.

There are only three ways a president can leave power in Ukraine - through death, resignation, or impeachment, he continued. Therefore, he said, Mr Yanukovych, from a legal perspective, is still the legitimate president and had fulfilled all conditions of a 21 February agreement with the opposition.

“Yanukovych agreed to everything the opposition demanded, effectively surrendering power, but he stood no chance of re-election”, Mr Putin added, telling the press conference: "I don't think he has a political future."

Russia offered him assistance because of humanitarian reasons, as otherwise Mr Yanukovych would simply "have been killed".

He said Russia was ready to host a G8 summit as planned this year but if western leaders did not want to come "they don't need to".

In Crimea, Russian soldiers are not responsible for surrounding Ukrainian military bases, which are instead being occupied by pro-Russian armed men. "There are many military uniforms. Go into any local shop and you can find one," he said.

READ MORE: OBAMA: PUTIN 'IS ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY' 
A CHILLING ULTIMATUM AND INTIMIDATION IN BELBEK 
COMMENT: NATO BETRAYAL PUSHING PUTIN TO ACT 
UK MINISTERS TO BOYCOTT PARALYMPICS

Ukraine's ambassador claimed some 16,000 strong tightened their grip on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula yesterday.

Soldiers controlled all Crimean border posts, as well as military facilities in the territory and a ferry terminal in the city of Kerch, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) across the water from Russia.

Mr Putin insisted military exercises near the border between western Russia and Ukraine were unrelated to the current events and had in fact been planned months before the crisis in Ukraine escalated.

"Military manoeuvres which we were conducting were not connected to what is happening in Ukraine – we actually planned it a long time ago but clearly we would not announce it", he told journalists. "As soon as the manoeuvres were over, we issued an order to pull back all the troops to their station."

Additional reporting by agencies

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Business Development B2B - Year 1 OTE £25,000

£17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Several opportunities to join t...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Administrator

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a small, busy team s...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Field Engineer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT Support c...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works