MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukraine's decision to send armed forces into the east of the country instead of trying to establish a dialogue with the Russian-speaking population there was a "grave crime."
In a televised call-in with the nation, Putin also dismissed allegations that Russian forces were present in east Ukraine and emphasised the importance of international talks on the crisis taking place in Geneva.
Putin criticised the government in Kiev for what he said was a mishandling of the situation in eastern Ukraine that is "dragging the country into an abyss."
"Instead of realising that there is something wrong with the Ukrainian government and attempting dialogue, they made more threats of force ... this is another very grave crime by Kiev's current leaders," he said.
"I hope that they are able to realise what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into."
He said the Geneva talks were very important and urged the government in Kiev to sit down to talks with Russian-speaking communities in the east.
"The start of today's talks are very important, because it is important that we together think about how to get out of the situation," Putin said.
He said claims that Russian forces were present in east Ukraine were "rubbish".
"It's all nonsense. There are no kinds of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. No special forces, no instructors. They are all local citizens."
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Additional reporting by Polina Devitt; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Alessandra Prentice)