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Russia says all Kiev troops are out of Crimea

Putin congratulates Russian army for Crimea takeover, while Obama denounces assembly of troops at border with Ukraine.

Last updated: 28 Mar 2014 18:47
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Putin congratulated the Russian armed forces for their role in the takeover of Crimea [AFP]

Russia's Defence Minister says that all Ukrainian servicemen loyal to Kiev have left Crimea and all military installations on the Black Sea peninsula are under Russian control, Interfax news agency has reported.

Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that he told President Vladimir Putin to return Ukrainian military vessels and airplanes which belong to forces that did not show their allegiance toward Russia.

Putin congratulated the Russian armed forces for their role in the takeover of Crimea, saying they had showed the new capacities of the Russian army.

"The recent events in Crimea were a serious test. They demonstrated the new capacities of our armed forces in terms of quality and the high moral spirit of the personnel," he said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

The Russian president ordered troops to assemble by the border with Ukraine, a move denounced by US President Barack Obama.

Obama urged Russia to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border, saying it was out of the ordinary and called on Moscow to begin talks to defuse tensions.

"You've seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises," he said, speaking to CBS News, "but these are not what Russia would normally be doing".

Obama said the moves might be no more than an effort to intimidate Ukraine, but also could be a precursor to other actions. "It may be that they've got additional plans," he said.

Interfax news agency quoted a Russian security official as saying that Western nations were seeking to weaken Russia's influence in vitally important region, and that Russia was taking an "offensive counterintelligence measures," in response. 

But Obama said that Putin might be entirely misreading the West. "He's certainly misreading American foreign policy."

"We have no interest in circling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives," he said.

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