Putin defends Russia’s response to Ukraine crisis as gunmen surround military bases

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Russia’s government on Sunday defended its decision to move military forces into Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin calling the measures taken so far “fully adequate” despite calls from NATO and Western governments to withdraw.

A Kremlin statement posted online said Putin spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone, and that Putin “directed her attention to the unrelenting threat of violence” to “Russian citizens and the whole Russian-speaking population.” The statement said Putin had stressed that measures taken by Russia so far were “fully adequate.”

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference that Russia should pull back its forces and refrain from interfering elsewhere in Ukraine, according to Reuters. NATO is urging the two countries to seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue.

Secretary of State John Kerry — who is heading to Kiev on March 4 to meet with representatives of Ukraine’s new government — has called Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine “an incredible act of aggression” and said Putin has made “a stunning, willful” choice to invade another country.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, which means the United States and Europe are not obligated to come to its defense.

The German government also said Putin accepted a proposal by Merkel for a fact-finding mission and a “contact group” on Ukraine that could be led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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