Putin, Obama Talk Tough on Ukraine

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Moscow Shows Little Sign of Backing Down; Russian Troops Fire Warning Shots Outside Air Base.

The U.S. kept up a war of words with Russian President Vladimir Putin while hoping he will back down over Ukraine, but there was little evidence Tuesday he would.

Mr. Putin offered a full-throated defense of his use of force in the restive region of Crimea, rejecting Western demands to withdraw and insisting sanctions would be counterproductive. Russian troops occupying an air base there fired warning shots at Ukrainian counterparts, seemingly underlining Moscow’s determination.

“We reserve the right to use all means at our disposal to protect” people in the region, Mr. Putin told reporters in Moscow Tuesday.

At an economic event later in Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the moves. “There is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law,” he said. “I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during an emergency visit to Kiev, pledged $1 billion in aid to Ukraine’s new government. U.S. and European leaders also intensified threats of punitive measures if Moscow didn’t begin pulling troops from the former Soviet state.

Still, Obama administration officials also said they saw Mr. Putin’s remarks—his first extensive comments since Russian soldiers went on the move last weekend—as a pause in escalation of tensions.

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