Bill Hemmer discussed the escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine with Fox News military analyst Capt. Chuck Nash (Ret.). In an interview with CBS News last night, President Obama said that Russia is not interested in triggering a military confrontation with the U.S.

"They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians. We don’t need a war," Obama said. He added there is "no excuse" for Russia supporting militias in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Nash described Obama's remark as "kind of a master-of-the-obvious statement," saying "of course" Russia does not want a direct military confrontation with U.S. forces.

Meantime, a confrontation at a base in the southeastern city of Mariupol turned violent, leaving three pro-Russian protesters dead and 13 wounded. Vladimir Putin is denying that Moscow is working to foment the protests. 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly stressed his right to send Russian troops into eastern Ukraine, but rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in the region.   

According to The New York Times, Putin emphasized  that Russian Parliament's upper chamber had authorized him to use military force if necessary, and stressed Russia’s historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as “new Russia."

Putin recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers.

Putin's comments Thursday came as Ukraine's Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said three pro-Russian protesters were killed, 13 more were wounded, and 63 were arrested in a confrontation at a military base in the east of the country. 

The Wall Street Journal first reported the remarks by Avakov. The incident occurred at a base in the southeastern city of Mariupol, in the Donbass region of the country, approximately 70 miles south of Donetsk.

Earlier, the Journal reported that a group of insurgents had stormed the base late Wednesday as Ukraine's military drive to regain control of the country's east from separatists was stymied by civilians who halted army columns in their tracks and militants who hijacked Ukrainian military vehicles and drove them around with Russian flags.

At Mariupol, the Ukrainian National Guard said the troops there had refused to comply with demands to surrender their weapons and switch sides. Protesters began rushing the gates and throwing Molotov cocktails, according to the National Guard, and shots were fired. 

Speaking in a televised call-in show with the nation Thursday, Putin harshly criticized the West for trying to pull Ukraine into its orbit and said that people in eastern Ukraine have risen against the authorities in Kiev, who ignored their rights and legitimate demands.

"It's all nonsense, there are no special units, special forces or instructors in the east of Ukraine," Putin said.

Nash maintains there is no way Putin is going to back down, saying Moscow is playing "a very dangerous game" that could have unintended consequences.

"I think what he's really trying to do is force the West to concede Crimea to him," he said, adding that Putin is hoping for a political solution that will give some autonomy to other states within Ukraine, allowing them to align closely with Moscow.

Nash supports Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) call for military assistance to be provided to the government in Kiev, as long as it does not include American troops on the ground.

"Even thinking about starting a conventional war over this is a little crazy," said Nash, explaining what he thinks Putin is trying to accomplish.

"This is all about Putin, the strong horse, trying to get everybody convinced that, 'Look, you're not going to do anything militarily so stop talking about that, and let's figure out how I get what I want so I look good in front of my people. And you can walk away without looking like you've got your tail between your legs.'"

Watch Nash's full analysis above.