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Trump Attempts to Clarify Comments on Russian Forces in Ukraine

Donald Trump attempted today to clarify his comments that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not have forces in Ukraine.

“When I said in an interview that Putin ‘is not going into Ukraine, you can mark it down,’ I am saying if I am President. Already in Crimea!” Trump tweeted. “So with all the Obama tough talk on Russia and the Ukraine, they have already taken Crimea and continue to push. That’s what I said!”

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Trump said Putin was "not going into Ukraine."

“He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want," Trump said.

Stephanopoulos responded that Putin already had forces in Ukraine, to which Trump replied that Putin was there “in a certain way.”

“But I’m not there. You have Obama there," Trump said, suggesting the president was to blame for the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea.

Trump has said he may recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The Republican nominee also asserted that the people of Crimea “would rather be with Russia than where they were” and that he’s “going to take a look” at the issue.

In 2015, a GfK Ukraine poll found that 82 percent of people in Crimea fully supported Crimea’s inclusion in Russia. Eleven percent showed partial support, while 4 percent were against it.

The telephone poll reached 800 people in Crimea in towns with populations of 20,000 or more. At the time, Bloomberg called the poll “the most representative independent poll taken on the peninsular since its annexation.”

The U.S. does not formally recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea and supports tough international economic sanctions against Moscow.

The GOP platform, set during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month, dramatically cut support for the Ukrainian government by not advocating the transfer of weapons to the country to fight Russian and rebel forces. The change reversed a view long-held by Republican leaders in Washington that Ukraine should have access to lethal weapons for defense purposes.

Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was a lobbyist for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Russian government. Manafort has denied that the campaign had any role in changing the party’s language regarding Ukraine.

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When asked by Stephanopoulos why the GOP softened its platform on Ukraine, Trump responded that he “wasn’t involved with that.”

“Do you know what they did?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“They softened it, I heard, but I was not involved,” Trump responded.

“They took away the part of the platform calling for the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves. Why is that a good idea?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas,” Trump said.

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