Russia has no need yet to send troops into Ukraine but reserves the right to use "all means" to protect citizens should the necessity arise, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
Speaking at his first news conference since the crisis began, Putin delivered a robust defense of his country's actions in Crimea, Ukraine while seeking to ease East-West tension over fears of war in the former Soviet republic.
Western governments have been alarmed at the possibility that Russia may also move into eastern and southern Ukraine, home to many Russian speakers, which Putin did not rule out.
His comments lifted Russian bond markets after a panic sell-off on Monday.
Putin said Western sanctions under consideration against Russia would be counter-productive. A senior U.S. official said Washington was ready to impose them in days rather than weeks.
Russian president described the event in Ukraine as an unconstitutional coup and said that Yanukovich, who fled to Russia last week, was still the legitimate leader.
No Ukrainian government elected under current circumstances, with "armed terrorists" in control, would be legitimate, he said.
The February 22 ousting of Yanukovich after months of street protests in Kiev, and Russia's bloodless seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region, have prompted the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.
Nearly 100 people were killed in Kyiv clashes in February. Ukraine’s new government has issued an international arrest warrant for Yanukovych and wants him to face charges of mass murder.