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Snowden asks Putin question on surveillance in phone-in

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday made an unexpected intervention in a phone-in with Russian President Vladimir Putin, quizzing him over the extent of Moscow's surveillance activities. Putin, a former KGB agent, greeted Snowden as a fellow "former agent" before assuring him that Russia's surveillance of the population was not on a mass scale and strictly controlled by laws.

Putin says Ukraine's decision to disbanded Berkut police will backfire

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine's Berkut riot police, a force disbanded by authorities in Kiev after being blamed for the deaths of protesters, had served honorably in the line of duty. Answering a question from a former Berkut officer in televised call-in with the nation, Putin told him "there is no doubt you and your colleagues ... professionally and honorably carried out your duty."

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 '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 says Ukraine risks abyss, dialogue only solution

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused Ukraine's new authorities of driving the country towards the abyss but said that dialogue was the only way out of the intensifying crisis. "Only through dialogue, through democratic procedures and not with the use of armed forces, tanks and planes can order be imposed in the country," Putin said at the start of a major nationwide phone-in broadcast on Russian television.

Putin warns of Ukraine abyss, hopes won't need to invade

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused Ukraine's new authorities of driving the country towards the abyss, saying he hoped he would not have to use his "right" to send Russian troops into the country. Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's eastern border as separatist pro-Russian activists seized buildings across east Ukraine, raising fears of a major conflict.

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.
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