President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin traded accusations today over the ongoing crisis in Crimea, with Putin complaining about Obama’s hysterical rhetoric and the US backing of extremist protesters in Kiev, and Obama insisting he has a “strong belief” that Putin’s deployment of troops is illegal.
Ukrainian officials have claimed 16,000 Russian troops are in the Crimea, and the US is accepting this figure. Russia has pointed out that a 1999 pact between Russia and Ukraine allows them to keep up to 25,000 troops in the Crimea as part of their naval base rental deal.
Obama has repeatedly threatened retaliation against Russia for the deployment, saying the Crimea belongs to Ukraine, and that Russia needs to immediately withdraw.
Putin has presented the deployment as a “humanitarian” endeavor, aimed at protecting the ethnic Russian majority in the Crimea. The Crimean parliament has authorized a referendum on secession from Ukraine, and suggests they may seek to join the Russian Federation.
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