Armed men believed to be Russian servicemen march outside a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
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The United States and Russia will hold talks on easing East-West tension over Ukraine on Wednesday as the West steps up efforts to persuade Moscow to pull its forces back to base in Crimea and avert the risk of a war.President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia's actions in Crimea, a strategic Black Sea peninsula that is part of Ukraine but used to be Russian territory, and said he would use force only as a last resort.Russian forces remain in control of the region, however, and Putin gave no sign of pulling servicemen, based in Crimea as part of the Black Sea Fleet, back to base.In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged that Russia had legitimate interests in Ukraine but said that did not give Putin the right to intervene militarily.The U.S. president will stay away from a G8 summit scheduled for Sochi, Russia, in June unless there is a Russian reversal in the Ukraine crisis, the official added.Putin earlier said Western sanctions under consideration against Russia would be counter-productive.
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