Ukraine crisis: Putin asserts Russia's 'right' to invade country during live-phone

Russian leader said decision to annex Crimea was influenced by Nato military expansion into the east

Vladimir Putin has asserted Russia’s “right” to invade Ukraine during a live phone-in, after accusing it of plunging Kiev into an “abyss” following a night of bloodshed in the east.

“I remind you that the Federation Council has given the president the right to use armed forces in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the upper house of Parliament during the annual televised question and answer session The Direct Line with Putin.

“I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that by political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve all of the sharp problems.”

Mr Putin said Russia has not ruled out sending troops into eastern Ukraine - but said he remained hopeful diplomacy would instead resolve the crisis.

The Russian leader argued the country had been forced to respond to Nato enlargement and that its annexation of Crimea was partly influenced by the Western military alliance's expansion into eastern Europe.

He said: "Our decision on Crimea was partly due to ... considerations that if we do nothing, then at some point, guided by the same principles, NATO will drag Ukraine in and they will say: 'It doesn't have anything to do with you.'"

"I hope that they are able to realise what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into," Mr Putin continued while dismissing accusations that Russian agents were acting in east Ukraine as "rubbish".

Ukraine's Berkut riot police, a force disbanded by authorities in Kiev after being blamed for the deaths of protesters, had served honourably in the line of duty, he told the phone-in.

Overnight, three pro-Russian separatists have been killed and thirteen more injured in the bloodiest attack in eastern Ukraine since the crisis began.

The bloodshed came after gunfire was exchanged between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian militants during an attack on a National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol.

This morning, Ukraine's state security service said it is detaining 10 Russian citizens, all of whom have intelligence backgrounds.

On Wednesday, pro- Russian troops seized six military vehicles and disarmed Ukrainian troops in a somewhat humiliating defeat for the interim government’s “anti-terrorist programme”.

Some troops attempting to reclaim captured sites in over a dozen towns and cities were sent home on buses in Kramatorsk, while pro-Moscow demonstrators took over yet another site, the mayor's office at Donetsk, after holding the administrative building in the city for weeks.

But overnight, 300 pro-Russian separatists threw Molotov cocktails and opened fire on a military unit in Mariupol, the Interior Minister said this morning. 

Arsen Avakov said in a post on Facebook that an armed group of about 300 attacked the base in Mariupol on the Sea of Azov with guns and petrol bombs. National Guard members first fired warning shots but then opened fire as the attack continued.

Sixty-three people have been arrested and most of the attackers disarmed, Mr Avakov said.

"According to preliminary data, three attackers were killed, 13 wounded and 63 detained," his statement read.

The Ukrainian government said that "given the aggressive nature of the attack on the base”, it is continuing to send in helicopters despite the military operation’s lack of success thus far.

The latest unrest comes ahead of crunch talks in Geneva today between Ukraine, the US the European Union and Russia, who are meeting all together for the first time since former president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February.

The US has threatened further sanctions in the wake of escalating tensions in the country, with President Barack Obama sending a direct warning to the Mr Putin that his actions all face consequences.

"Each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, there are going to be consequences," Mr Obama said Wednesday in an interview with CBS News.

"Mr. Putin's decisions aren't just bad for Ukraine. Over the long term, they're going to be bad for Russia."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions