Putin Speaks, Decries U.S. For 'Experimenting On Rats' In Ukraine

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his position on Ukraine. In a news conference, Putin denied that Russian troops are in Crimea but reserved the right to use force in Ukraine.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Today in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke out at a televised news conference to address his actions in Ukraine. Answering a wide range of questions from reporters, Putin reserved the right to use force in Ukraine if necessary to protect Russians, but said it would be a last resort. Here is the Russian president speaking through an interpreter.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Through Translator) If we see this unlawfulness starting in the east, and if they request us for help, we leave the right for ourselves to take all measures to protect the rights of these people and so we consider it quite legitimate.

BLOCK: At that news conference, Putin also denied that the troops in Crimea are Russian forces, and he said that recent military exercises in his country had nothing to do with the events in Ukraine. Putin referred to the protests that deposed Ukraine's president as unconstitutional, and he described the protesters as a group of radicals, nationalists and anti-semites.

PUTIN: (Through Translator) Why did they need to these unconstitutional actions and bring the country into the chaos it is in now? Military men are walking around Kiev in masks still now. They wanted to humiliate someone or show their force. I think this is very stupid. And the result, I think, was opposite to what they expected.

CORNISH: Putin blamed much of the chaos on the United States. He compared the U.S. role to, quote, "sitting in a laboratory and running experiments on rats without any understanding of the consequences."

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