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Russia's Putin says will continue to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine

Published on Jun 25, 2014 12:20 AM

VIENNA (AFP) - Moscow will continue to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday after dismissing a week-long ceasefire between pro-Kremlin rebels and Ukrainian troops as "too short".

"We will always protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, as well as the part of Ukrainian people who ... feel part of the wider Russian world, and we will not only monitor this but also react," Putin said during a visit to Austria. "I hope that armed forces will not be necessary for this." Putin asked Russian lawmakers on Tuesday to revoke a resolution allowing him to invade Ukraine in a shock change of heart that Kiev hailed as the "first practical step" in defusing the months-long crisis.

The Russian leader however insisted that a seven-day truce between separatist rebels and forces loyal to Kiev in Ukraine's restive east be followed by concrete talks.

"It is not enough to announce a ceasefire, there should be the beginning of negotiations," Putin said.

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