Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared on Tuesday that had Russian President Vladimir Putin not “taken the initiative” in Ukraine, the NATO alliance would have launched a war with Russia over Crimea, which Kiev claims as its own land.
Speaking alongside Putin in Tehran, Khamenei stated that “as regards Ukraine, if you did not take the initiative, the other side would have initiated the war.”
Describing the West as “completely opposed to a strong and independent Russia” and NATO as “a dangerous entity that sees no boundaries in its expansionist policy,” the Iranian leader added that “had they not been stopped in Ukraine, they would have launched the same war sometime later under the pretext of the Crimea issue.”
Considered Russian land since imperial times, Crimea was an autonomous republic within the Soviet Union until it was ceded to the Ukrainian SSR by Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev in 1954. The region fell under Ukrainian control after the breakup of the USSR, and voted to join Russia in 2014.