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Putin Calls Changes in Ukraine a 'Coup', Denies Sending Troops There

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the political power shift in Ukraine as a "coup" and seemed to deny Russian forces have moved into Ukrainian territory, including Crimea. But he said that they potentially could.

Speaking to reporters at the presidential residence outside Moscow, Mr. Putin called the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine's president an "anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power," and said "neo-Nazis, nationalists (and) anti-Semites" were running rampant in parts of Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv.

He said Mr. Yanukovych, who fled to Russia, remains Ukraine's "legitimate" leader.

On Saturday, Russia's parliament granted Mr. Putin the authority to use military force to protect Russian citizens and soldiers throughout Ukraine.

Mr. Putin on Tuesday appeared to deny that any Russian troops have invaded Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian officials say Moscow has sent 16,000 troops into Crimea since last week.

The Russian president said the armed men in uniforms without insignia who had blockaded Ukrainian forces on the peninsula were "local self-defense forces," not Russian soldiers. He said those forces had not been trained by Russia.

Mr. Putin also said Russia has no plans to annex Crimea.

Asked under what conditions he might send troops into Ukraine, Mr. Putin said: "For the time being, this is not necessary." Russian military forces might be sent into Ukraine only as a "last resort," he said.