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Amid the tensions, the Russian military test-fired a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile. Fired from a launch pad in southern Russia, it hit a designated target on a range leased by Russia from Kazakhstan.
The new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, which Putin does not recognize, has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea, which the Russian leader denied.
Ukraine’s prime minister expressed hope that a negotiated solution could be found. Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a news conference that both governments were gradually beginning to talk again.
"We hope that Russia will understand its responsibility in destabilizing the security situation in Europe, that Russia will realize that Ukraine is an independent state and that Russian troops will leave the territory of Ukraine," he said.
In his hour-long meeting with reporters, Putin said Russia had no intention of annexing Crimea, while insisting its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum later this month. Tensions "have been settled," he declared.
He said massive military maneuvers Russia has conducted involving 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s border were previously planned and unrelated to the current situation in Ukraine. Russia announced that Putin had ordered the troops back to their bases.
Putin hammered away at his message that the West was to blame for Ukraine’s turmoil, saying its actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy. He warned that any sanctions the United States and European Union place on Russia will backfire.
American threats of punitive measures are "failure to enforce its will and its vision of the right and wrong side of history," Russia’s Foreign Ministry said — a swipe at President Barack Obama’s statement a day earlier that Russia was "on the wrong side of history."
In Washington, Obama shot back. Moves to punish Putin put the U.S. on "the side of history that, I think, more and more people around the world deeply believe in, the principle that a sovereign people, an independent people, are able to make their own decisions about their own lives."
"And, you know, Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he is not abiding by that principle," Obama said.
The EU was to hold an emergency summit Thursday on whether to impose sanctions.
Moscow has insisted that the Russian military deployment in Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement concerning Russia’s Black Sea Fleet military base there. At the United Nations, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under that agreement.
Putin also asserted that Ukraine’s 22,000-strong force in Crimea had dissolved and its arsenals had fallen under the control of the local government. He didn’t explain if that meant the Ukrainian soldiers had just left their posts or if they had switched allegiance from Kiev to the local pro-Russian government.
Putin accused the West of using fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia to fan the protests that drove him from power and plunged Ukraine into turmoil.
"I have told them a thousand times ‘Why are you splitting the country?’" he said.
While he said he still considers Yanukovych to be Ukraine’s legitimate president, he acknowledged that the fallen leader has no political future — and said Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put Yanukovych on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kiev.
Putin had withering words for Yanukovych, with whom he has never been close.
Asked if he harbors any sympathy for the fugitive president, Putin replied that he has "quite opposite feelings."
Sullivan reported from Crimea. Associated Press writers Ivan Sekretarev in Sevastopol, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Raul Gallego in Crimea contributed to this report.
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