Tensions ease, but Russia still talks tough

2:51 AM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
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MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Vladimir Putin is still talking tough on Ukraine -- but he has also helped ease tensions.

Putin says Russia has no intention to "fight the Ukrainian people" -- but he's reserving the right to use force in order to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

Russia has agreed to a NATO request to hold a special meeting in Brussels to discuss Ukraine -- opening up a possible diplomatic channel.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said that there is room for Ukraine to be a friend of both the West and Russia.

But he says Russia's military invasion of Ukraine could end up driving countries away from Russia, instead of closer to it.

Kerry pays tribute to protesters who died 

Secretary of State John Kerry has met in Ukraine with that country's acting president, prime minister and foreign minister, as well as top parliamentary officials.

It's a show of U.S. support for Ukraine's new leadership, as it deals with a Russian military takeover of Crimea, a mostly pro-Russian region in southeastern Ukraine.

After Tuesday's meeting, Kerry urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stand down. Kerry said the U.S. is looking for ways to de-escalate tensions.

He told reporters that Russia has been "working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further." He said it's "not appropriate to invade a country, and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve."

Kerry earlier walked the streets where nearly 100 anti-government protesters were gunned down by police last month. He promised Ukrainians that U.S. aid is on the way.

The Obama administration announced a $1 billion energy subsidy package for Ukraine as Kerry was arriving there. The United States is preparing economic sanctions -- something Kerry said "Russia is pushing us to do."

Associated Press

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