Russia's President Vladimir Putin stuck to his position on the escalating crisis in Ukraine, saying Moscow must not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in that country.
During a one-hour call with President Barack Obama on Thursday, Putin said that Ukraine’s government came to power as the result of an “unconstitutional coup” and was “imposing entirely illegitimate decision onto Crimea and the eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine,” according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website.
On Thursday, the parliament of the semi-autonomous and largely pro-Moscow region of Crimea voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, and set a date for a referendum on the subject for March 16.
The government of Ukraine was “imposing entirely illegitimate decisions onto Crimea and the eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine,” according to the Kremlin’s statement. “Russia cannot ignore calls for help on this matter and is responding accordingly, in full compliance with international law.”
The White House earlier said that President Barack Obama had told Putin that the Russian incursion into Crimea was a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and that the United States and its European allies had “taken several steps in response.”
F. Brinley Bruton of NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.