Putin expresses fears to Obama about Russian speakers in Ukraine

MOSCOW, March 17 Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:02pm EDT

MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday Crimea's referendum on union with Russia was legitimate and expressed concern about Kiev's failure to stamp out violence against Russian speakers in Ukraine.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin drew attention to the inability and unwillingness of the present authorities in Kiev to curb rampant violence by ultra-nationalist and radical groups that destabilise the situation and terrorise civilians, including Russian speaking population," the Kremlin said.

He suggested European monitors should be sent to all parts of Ukraine because of the violence, which the Ukrainian authorities blame on pro-Russian groups. Russian parliament has given Putin the authority to use the armed forces if needed to protect compatriots in Ukraine.