By Justin Sink - 03/07/14 10:14 AM EST
Russian President Vladimir Putin is dismissing warnings from President Obama and the West about Moscow’s incursion into Crimea.
In a statement released after Putin and Obama spoke by telephone for an hour, Putin harshly criticized Ukraine’s new government and said the Kremlin would not ignore cries for help from ethnic Russians.
“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” Putin said.
Putin’s comments suggested Obama made little headway with the Russian leader during the call. Obama also on Thursday authorized sanctions on Russia to raise more pressure on Moscow.
Putin’s claimed that the pro-European leaders in Ukraine had executed an “anti-constitutional coup” in his statement.
Russian forces one week ago entered Crimea, a region of Eastern Ukraine that was a part of Russia until 1954.
The Kremlin's move came after more than 80 people were killed during protests in the capital city of Kiev, prompting a negotiated settlement between the pro-European opposition and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Shortly after the agreement was signed, Yanukovych fled Kiev for Russia, fearing arrest.
Western powers, including the United States, have denounced the Russian incursion as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty. According to the White House, Obama reiterated that complaint during the leaders’ phone call Thursday night.
Obama has implored Russia to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis — a request he repeated during his conversation with Putin. The proposal would include direct talks between the Ukraine and Russia governments, ensuring Russian forces return to their bases and installing international monitors to protect the rights of all Ukrainians.
“There is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community,” the White House said.