Putin denies Russia will ever move troops into Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruled out the possibility of Russia moving troops into Ukraine's autonomous Crimea region.
"This doesn't mean at all that we are going to brandish the sword and move our troops somewhere. That's complete rubbish. Nothing of the kind is the case or can be," Putin told a news conference in Moscow on Thursday when asked whether Russia might move troops into Crimea.
He said the current situation in Crimea has nothing in common with the August 2008 state of affairs in South Ossetia when Russian forces moved in to fight the Georgian attack on the region.
"You compared the issue of South Ossetia and Abkhazia with the situation in Crimea. I don't believe it is a fair comparison to make. Nothing like what was happening to South Ossetia and Abkhazia is happening to Crimea," Putin said.
"Those territories declared their independence a while ago, and there was, unfortunately, a large-scale - by regional standards - bloody ethnic conflict there. Nor was it the first conflict of that kind if one bears in mind 1919 and 1921, when punitive operations were carried out because, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, those territories declared that they would like to remain part of Russia and not part of independent Georgia," the president said.
He claimed that Russia's military operation against Georgia in 2008 was a reaction to an alleged Georgian attack on Russian peacekeepers.
"There is nothing of the kind in Crimea, thank God, nor, I hope, will there ever be anything of the kind there. We have a treaty on Russian naval presence there. It has been extended, and, I hope, in the interests of both nations as well. The Russian naval presence in Sevastopol is a serious stabilizing factor in international and regional politics," he said.