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Putin reveals thinking behind 2014 moves in Crimea

Before the Maidan in 2014, Moscow was happy to work closely with all Ukrainian governments and had no plan to take any action in Crimea. However, this changed when a democratically elected leader was overthrown, the Russian president said on Thursday.

Speaking to journalists at his annual end-of-year press conference at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall in Moscow, Putin said he would have continued working closely with Ukrainian partners if there hadn’t been a “bloody coup d’etat,” in which people were “killed and burned.”

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The current tension between Russia and Ukraine began following the events of the 2014 Maidan, when violent street protests toppled a democratically elected government. Shortly after the uprising in Kiev, Crimea was reabsorbed into Russia following a referendum. The vast majority of the world considers the vote illegitimate and views the peninsula as illegally occupied by Moscow.

Before the Maidan, reabsorbing Crimea was not even on the cards, the Russian president said.

“How could we say no to Sevastopol and Crimea, to the people who live there? How could we not take them under our protection, under our wing? Impossible. We were put in a situation where we could not do otherwise,” Putin said.

The president also referred to a decision by the Soviet Union to create the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which saw new borders created inside what was formerly the Russian Empire. According to Putin, those living in Crimea, as well as in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine, were not given a choice of which country they belonged to, and many of those locals wished to be Russian.

“They created a country which never existed before,” he claimed, suggesting that today’s crises are ripple effects from that decision.

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