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Foreign affairs

Vladimir Putin: I hope I don't have to send troops to 'new Russia'

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned that he'd been authorized to send troops to eastern Ukraine, though he said that he hoped it would not come to that.

In a televised interview, Putin noted that the Russian Parliament last month unanimously approved using force in eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians. And he ominously referred to the region as "new Russia," suggesting Moscow had a legitimate claim to the land and saying only "God knows" why it ever became part of Ukraine in the first place.

"I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that by political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve all of the sharp problems," he said.

"The question is to ensure the rights and interests of the Russian southeast. It's new Russia," he added.

Putin's remarks came after Ukrainian troops killed three pro-Russian separatists, wounded a dozen more, and captured at least 63 in an overnight raid in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and Ukraine have accused Russia of instigating the unrest, a charge Moscow denies.