Putin says Russia was forced to intervene in Ukraine to help Donbas

Russian President Putin addresses heads of security agencies of CIS states via video link in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday defended Moscow's attempted annexation of four Ukrainian regions and said the eastern Donbas region would "not have survived" on its own had Russia not intervened militarily in Ukraine.

Putin last month announced that Russia was formally incorporating four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine after staging what he called "referendums" in Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Kyiv and the West said they would not recognise the attempted annexation, which they cast as part of an illegal Russian land grab.

Putin also said that events in Ukraine in 2014 - when street protests ousted Ukraine's pro-Russia president from office - led directly to today's conflict.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a "special military operation."

(Reporting by Reuters)