Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pic: AP.

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin says he hopes he won’t have to send Russian troops into Ukraine.

Putin said in a televised call-in session Thursday that he hopes that the Ukrainian crisis could be solved by political and diplomatic means.

He denied the claims by Ukraine and the West that Russian special forces were fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.

At the same time, he recognized for the first time that troops in unmarked uniforms who swept Ukraine’s region of Crimea before its last month’s annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers.