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March 04, 2014 AT 3:06 PM
President Vladimir Putin delivered a robust defense of Russia's actions in Crimea on Tuesday and said he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort, easing market fears that East-West tension over the former Soviet republic could lead to war. Russian forces fired warning shots in a confrontation with Ukrainian servicemen at an air base, and Russian navy ships were reported to have blockaded the strait separating the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula from Russia. At his first news conference since the crisis began, Putin said Russia reserved the right to use all options to protect compatriots who were living in "terror" in Ukraine, but force was not needed for now.