A pro-Russian separatist in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk (Reuters photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the crisis in Ukraine had evolved into a full-scale civil war, blaming Washington for backing the overthrow of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
"The Ukrainian crisis arose because Yanukovych postponed the association agreement with the European Union. This was followed by a coup backed by our American friends and as a result there is chaos and full-scale civil war," Putin told an economic forum in Saint Petersburg.
He also defended Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March, saying it had followed a democratic vote for independence and prevented a tragedy like the inferno in the port city of Odessa this month that left dozens of pro-Moscow activists dead.
"With regard to Crimea, our position is clear... They voted in favour -- that is an undeniable fact," Putin said.
"If this had not been done we would have seen a tragedy, like we saw in other cities. Like in Odessa where 50 people were burned alive. I think we did the right thing."