In a press conference Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied allegations that the military troops occupying Ukrainian military installations, airports, and other facilities are Russian soldiers. Instead, Putin claimed that they are local “self-defense groups” who probably acquired their Russian-looking uniforms from Crimean shops.
The “Russian-looking” militiamen appeared in Crimea last Friday and have seized control of virtually all military facilities in the region. Several Ukrainian troops still stationed in the peninsula surrendered to these “unidentified” forces early Tuesday. The troops, besides their Russian-style outfits, bear no identification on them and have not announced who they are, but it is widely believed that they are in fact Russian military.
Putin made his claim in a testy press conference with a handful of journalists in Moscow. While not admitting that the forces in Crimea were Russian military, he did assert that his nation has the right to intervene into Ukraine, despite a 1994 treaty that guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.
“If it’s a revolution, what does that mean? It’s hard not to agree that a new government is appearing in this country, just like in Russia after 1917,” Putin rebutted, according to The Guardian. “We didn’t sign any documents with this government.”
The Russian leader also claimed that his nation would be fully justified in its intervention as it would be “to protect the people of Ukraine.”
“This is legitimate and corresponds with our interests of protecting people who are historically tied to us, who have cultural ties to us, who have economic ties … This is a humanitarian mission. We won’t dictate anything to anyone but of course we won’t stand aside if people are threatened,” Putin stated.