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Crimeans determine their fate for first time in history - Vladimir Putin

March 18, 2014, 17:23 UTC+3 MOSCOW

"This strategic territory should be under strong and stable sovereignty which in fact can only be Russian today", emphasizes Russian president

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People watching Vladimir Putin's address in Crimea's Simferopol

People watching Vladimir Putin's address in Crimea's Simferopol

© ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsin

MOSCOW, March 18. /ITAR-TASS/. President Vladimir Putin has urged the West to "stop hysteria" and acknowledge that Russia has its own national interests which have to be respected. It took Putin 45 minutes to elaborate on Russia's position on Crimea and the situation in Ukraine.

"The West should stop hysteria, drop the "Cold War" rhetoric and acknowledge the obvious fact: Russia is an independent state; it has its own national interest that have to be taken into account and respected," Putin said in his address in connection with Crimea's integration into the Russian Federation.

Even today, the West is continuing the notorious policy of restraining Russia, he said.

"We have all reasons to believe that the policy of restraining Russia which western states pursued in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries is continuing today," the president said. "They keep trying to drive us into a corner for having our own position and defending it."

Crimea should be under strong stable sovereignty which, according to actual fact, can only be Russian, otherwise Crimea might be lost, he went on.

"Crimea is our common possession, a crucial factor of regional stability. This strategic territory should be under strong and stable sovereignty which in fact can only be Russian today. Otherwise this territory might be lost. I'm addressing both Ukraine and Russia: we and you, Russians and Ukrainians, might lose Crimea altogether in near future. Ponder these words," Putin urged.

He reminded that statements had already been made in Kiev on Ukraine’s soonest NATO membership.

In practice, it means that a NATO fleet would appear in Sevastopol, the city of Russian military glory. "A threat would emerge for southern Russia: not ephemeral, but absolutely concrete. It could have really happened had it not been for Crimeans' choice. Thank you for it," the Russian leader said.

"Those who were resisting the coup /in Ukraine/ were threatened with punitive operations and reprisals. Of course, Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea was the first in line," Putin said. "In this connection, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol asked Russia to protect their rights and life and prevent what was happening in Kiev and what is now happening in Donetsk and Kharkov. We could not but respond to this request; we could not leave Crimean residents in trouble, otherwise it would have been betrayal."

"First of all, it was necessary to help create conditions for a peaceful free expression of will, so that Crimeans could decide on their future for the first time in history," he underlined.

Almost 92% of Russians support Crimea's integration into Russia, the president added.

"We wish peace and accord to come to the Ukrainian land; together with other countries we're ready to provide comprehensive assistance and support to it, but I repeat: only Ukrainian citizens are capable of restoring order in their homeland," Putin underlined.

"We respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine," he said.

He urged the Ukrainian people not to trust those who allege Russian threat, claiming that other regions will follow Crimea. "We don't want partition of Ukraine," Putin underlined. "But Crimea, according to actual fact, can only be Russian", added Vladimir Putin.

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