Russian President Vladimir Putin commented extensively on the circumstances surrounding the absorption of Crimea by Russia in a documentary entitled “Crimea: Return to the Motherland,” which aired on television channel Rossiya 1 March 15.
Putin said that the idea of taking Crimea away from Ukraine did not develop until after Yanukovich was ousted.
“We never thought of separating Crimea from Ukraine, never. But when the developments related to the coup, the armed and unconstitutional seizure of power began, and these people found themselves in danger of being humiliated by nationalists, then of course we, I immediately thought of that,” Putin said.
“When we saw an outburst of extreme nationalism, it became clear that very hard times may come for people living specifically in Crimea. And only then - I want to stress it - the idea appeared that we cannot leave people just like that, leave people in distress in this situation.”
Putin said that the operation "generally went smoothly, except, perhaps, a little episode, when there was a moment of hesitation as the first contingent was being transferred there. Something must have not been understood.”
Putin also said that some of the Crimean Tatars sided with the Russian forces during the developments in Crimea last spring.
“Crimean Tatars are not a homogenous mass; there are different people among them. The local militia acted quite energetically and found support among part of the Crimean Tatar population too. The militia invited Crimean Tatars to joint work. There were Crimean Tatars among the militiamen,” Putin said.
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