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Putin says Russia, Ukraine will reach 'mutual understanding'

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was certain that Russia and Ukraine could reach a compromise following Moscow's annexation of Crimea, saying the neighbors had a huge number of common interests. "I'm sure we will come to a mutual understanding with Ukraine. We will not be able to do without each other," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by John Stonestreet)

Putin says to speed up process of switching Crimea to ruble

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the country would speed up the process of switching Crimea's banking system to the ruble as Moscow looks to integrate the peninsula it annexed last month. Crimea has officially introduced the ruble and started paying out pensions and state salaries in the currency since the region voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia on March 16. Kiev and the West have denounced the annexation.

Snowden asks Putin question on surveillance in phone-in

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin a question on the extent of Moscow's surveillance activities during a phone-in session. Snowden, who has been given asylum in Russia, asked the question in English via video. It was not clear if the video was recorded or was live. Putin replied that the kind of "mass eavesdropping" on the population that Snowden exposed in the United States was impossible as Russia's special services were under strict control. sjw/am/ric

Putin says hopes will not have to use force in eastern Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday did not rule out sending Russian troops into eastern Ukraine but said he hoped he would not need to, and that diplomacy would serve to resolve the crisis there. In a televised call-in with the nation, Putin said Russia "would do everything possible" to help the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine, where separatist rebellions have broken out.

Putin admits Russian forces were deployed to Crimea

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said Russian forces had been active in Crimea in order to support local defense forces, the first time he has admitted deployment of Russian troops on the Black Sea peninsula. "We had to take unavoidable steps so that events did not develop as they are currently developing in southeast Ukraine," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation. "Of course our troops stood behind Crimea's self-defense forces."

Putin hails Russia's relationship with China

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday relations between Russia and China have developed to an all-time high and they will play a significant role on the global political stage. "It..will significantly influence the modern architecture of international relations," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation, but added that they were "not considering the question of a military-political alliance."

Putin 'very much hopes' will not have to use army in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he very much hopes that he will not have to use his "right" to send Russian military forces into Ukraine amid the intensifying crisis. "I very much hope that I am not obliged to use this right," said Putin, recalling that the Russian upper house of parliament had on March 1 authorised him to send troops onto Ukrainian territory. Putin had said that Russia's main demand was for guarantees of the protection of the rights for Russian-speakers living in south and east Ukraine. "It is a question of guarantees for these people."

Putin admits Russian troops in Crimea during referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday admitted for the first time that Russian soldiers were present on the Crimean peninsula before and during the referendum that backed rule from Moscow. "Our goal was to ensure the conditions for a free vote," Putin said, explaining who were the soldiers in uniforms without insignia who appeared in Crimea in late February, many of them surrounding Ukrainian military bases.

US readies sanctions, demands concessions from Russia

The United States warned Wednesday it was "actively preparing" new sanctions to hit Russia if critical Ukraine talks do not produce concessions from Moscow. US officials privately signaled they had little hope that the Geneva talks between Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and Washington would make significant progress. They also revealed that the toughest available sanctions -- those targeting key sectors of the Russian economy -- would only come into force in the event of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

US readies sanctions, demands Russia halt 'provocation'

The United States urged Russia Wednesday to stop its "provocation" in eastern Ukraine, warning it was preparing new sanctions against Moscow ahead of a critical international meeting in Geneva on the crisis. As Secretary of State John Kerry was flying to the Swiss city for talks involving Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, the White House signaled new sanctions against Moscow could be imminent.
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