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Putin: 'I will say this clearly: There are no Russian troops in Ukraine'

Vladimir PutinAPRussian President Vladimir Putin listens during an annual call-in show on Russian television ‘Conversation With Vladimir Putin’ in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 16, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is still denying that there are any Russian troops in Ukraine.

During an hours-long question-and-answer show on Thursday, Putin said he wants a “stable, peaceful Ukraine” and that Ukrainians and Russians are one people.

Im what seems to be imitating US President Barack Obama’s favourite phrase, “Let me be clear,” Putin said: “I will say this clearly: There are no Russian troops in Ukraine.”

Not everyone is buying it:

During Putin’s end-of-year press conference in December, a Ukrainian journalist asked him how many soldiers he sent to Ukraine. Putin responded by saying Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine were volunteers and couldn’t be called mercenaries because they were not paid. He also blamed Kiev for starting the conflict.

Experts estimate that thousands of people have died since fighting broke out between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels a year ago. Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, says Russia is supporting the separatists and has thousands of troops on the ground.

At Thursday’s press conference, Putin seemed to make a veiled threat when discussing US and the West:

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