In a call-in show Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that Russia had invaded Crimea at the end of February. Putin had ever denied and taken offense to accusations that Russia invaded Crimea. Russian diplomats had sternly argued against any such notion at UN and other important meetings.
Putin admitted that forces in Crimea–called pro-Russian forces because Russia had denied their Russian origin–who wore Russian uniforms and bore marks of belonging to Russian elite military forces groups, were Russian soldiers. Putin said that the invasion was necassary because “there was no other way” to hold Crimea’s March 16 referendum–considered illegal by most nations–on joining Russia “in an open, honest and honerable way” and to provide freedom of expression for the people.
Putin said that the Russian government “had to take unavoidable steps” to ensure that events in Crimea did not develop the way that events “are currently developing in southeast Ukraine.” Putin said that “of course [Russia’s troops] stood behind Crimea’s self-defense forces.”
Putin also said that the action was in part a move to prevent the limitation of Russia’s presence in the Black Sea region. Putin said that NATO intended to make Ukraine a member, which would cause such a limitation.
Commenters have pointed out that NATO had no intention to bring Ukraine into membership, nor had Ukraine wanted membership in NATO. Commenters also have pointed out that Russia’s lease for its bases on Crimea had not been moved on with any intention to revoke Russia’s operational rights there.
In response to questions about accusation that the organized bands of armed soldiers who have invaded Southeast Ukrainian government offices in eight cities wearing the same equipment as the admittedly Russian forces in Crimea–who claim to be local but who locals have said are not local–Putin maintained that the forces were not Russian. Putin said that Russian forces had not infiltrated Ukraine and were not assisting pro-Russian militants in Ukraine.
Putin reminded the listeners of the call-in talk show on which he made the admission that the Russian Federation Counsil had given the president the right to use military force in Ukraine. Putin said he hoped this would not be necassary, and that political and diplomatic means would serve to solve all the current problems surrounding Crimea–what had before been a contented issue of whether Russia had invaded with force and held an illegal referendum–and Ukraine, which Putin referred to in the call-in show as “New Russia.”
Russia invaded Crimea at the end of February shortly after pro-European Maidan protesters scared Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych out of the country. Ukraine’s parliament cancelled a piece of 2012 legislation which had made legal minority languages such as Russian, enraging Russian speakers in many parts of Ukraine, such as Crimea, where Russians account for 60 percent of the population. After access to Crimea was blocked off by Russian forces, the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia, and announced a public referendum to take place 10 days later, in which Crimeans could vote to join Russia–there was no option to remain part of Ukraine. The vote was reported to show 97 percent support for joining Russia.
By Day Blakely Donaldson