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Putin Hopes Troop Dispatch to Ukraine Will Not Be Necessary

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he hoped he would not have to send Russian troops into eastern Ukraine, but reminded viewers of his annual call-in show that he has the approval of the upper house of the Russian parliament to do so.

“I very much hope that I will not have to use this right, and that political and diplomatic means” can be employed to solve Ukraine's problems, the president said.

Putin reiterated commitment to Russians and Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, saying: “We should do everything to help these people defend their rights and independently decide their fate. For that we will fight.”

Russian government officials have repeatedly said that Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, which has recently seen a spree of building seizures by pro-Russian separatists, are under threat from the country's new central government in Kiev.

The Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, approved a request by Putin in early March to use force in Ukraine.

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