ST. PETERSBURG, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Ongoing events in Ukraine were a "full-scale civil war" incited by the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
"The state coup (in Kiev) supported by U.S. and European partners was followed by chaos and now by a full-scale civil war," RIA Novosti news agency quoted Putin as saying in a speech at the 18th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
This was why Moscow had rescued Crimea from a "big tragedy" which would have happened on the peninsula if it had not joined Russia, he said.
"We did not allow a similar tragedy (to Odessa) happen in Crimea. I believe we've acted right," he said, referring to clashes in early May between pro- and anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, which killed 50 and injured more than 170.
Crimea joined Russia following a referendum in mid-March.
Putin also criticised the European Union (EU) for inaction over a settlement of the Ukraine crisis.
"So far, there's nothing but slogans," he said, noting direct talks between the rival parties was the only way to restore mutual trust in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, he said the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine could have an underlying motive of weakening Washington's European competitors in the Russian market, adding the sanctions would not inflict systemic damage on the Russian economy.
"All these things currently do not have a systemic negative effect on our economy, and I hope they won't have this," he said.
The Russian economy has been struggling to maintain growth amid domestic difficulties and outside pressure, partially from several rounds of sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU.
The three-day annual forum, a leading economic event in Russia, attracted some 6,500 participants from more than 70 countries and regions.