Russia says cannot order Crimean "self-defence" forces back to base

MOSCOW, March 5 Wed Mar 5, 2014 4:53am EST

MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed groups in Ukraine's Crimea region to return to their bases because they are "self-defence" forces and do not answer to Moscow.

Western states are discussing a potential resolution to the crisis ignited by Russian intervention in Crimea under which Russia would pull back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea peninsula and allow in international monitors.

Speaking in Madrid in remarks shown on Russian television, Lavrov repeated Russia's assertion that armed men deployed there are not Russian forces, said Russian naval personnel were in normal positions and said it was up to Crimean and Ukrainian authorities to grant international observers access.

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