Putin refuses to rule out sending Russian troops into Eastern Ukraine
President Vladimir Putin has not ruled 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.
"I remind you that the Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) granted the president the right to use military force in Ukraine," Putin said in televised call-in with the nation.
"I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today's pressing issues via political-diplomatic mean."
Earlier during the broadcast, the Russian President said that Ukraine's government needs to provide guarantees to its Russian-speaking population in the east of the country to resolve the crisis.
"The compromise must be found not between third party players but between the different political forces within Ukraine itself," Putin said.
"This is extremely important, it is the key issue."
He said Ukraine's decision to send armed forces into the east of the country instead of trying to establish a dialogue with the Russian-speaking population there was a "grave crime."
Putin also dismissed allegations that Russian forces were present in east Ukraine and emphasised the importance of international talks on the crisis taking place in Geneva.
Putin criticised the government in Kiev for what he said was a mishandling of the situation in eastern Ukraine that is "dragging the country into an abyss."
"Instead of realising that there is something wrong with the Ukrainian government and attempting dialogue, they made more threats of force ... this is another very grave crime by Kiev's current leaders," he said.
"I hope that they are able to realise what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into."
He said the Geneva talks were very important and urged the government in Kiev to sit down to talks with Russian-speaking communities in the east.
"The start of today's talks are very important, because it is important that we together think about how to get out of the situation," Putin said.
He said claims that Russian forces were present in east Ukraine were "rubbish".
"It's all nonsense. There are no kinds of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. No special forces, no instructors. They are all local citizens."