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Hagel: Russia Should Keep Its Word and Stay Out of Mainland Ukraine

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon on March 26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Hagel and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond held the briefing after a bilateral meeting earlier at the Pentagon where they spoke about the Ukraine and other issues.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon on March 26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Hagel and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond held the briefing after a bilateral meeting earlier at the Pentagon where they spoke about the Ukraine and other issues. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP - Getty Images

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that Russia needs to live up to its commitment not to move troops across the border into Ukraine.

Hagel, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, was asked whether he could rule out a Russian incursion into mainland Ukraine. He referred to a March 20 conversation with his Russian counterpart.

“He told me that they have no intention of crossing the border into Ukraine,” Hagel said. “The reality is they continue to build up their forces, so they need to make sure they stay committed to what the minister told me.”

Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea earlier this month after Russian troops took control of it. The Russian government has said it has no plans to escalate the crisis by invading mainland Ukraine.

Hagel spoke at a joint news conference with his British counterpart. He was also asked whether terrorism or political violence might be behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“I don’t think at this point we can rule anything in or out,” Hagel said. He added that “we have to continue to search” and “until we have more info, we don’t know.”

— Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube

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