Russia's President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready to use all means to protect Russians in Ukraine, but hopes he will not have to use force in eastern Ukraine.
Putin said Tuesday that while the Ukrainian parliament is legitimate, the acting president is not. He said that fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych is the only legitimate leader of Ukraine.
Putin rejected Western criticism of Russian action in Ukraine, saying that there have been doubts about the legitimacy of Western action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Putin says Yanukovych has no political future and Russia sheltered him to save his life and believes sanctions against Russia will backfire on the West, that Russia reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in Ukraine and that he hopes Russia won't have to use force in eastern Ukraine.
It was the first time Putin has spoken publicly since Yanukovych fled Kyiv.