MOSCOW, 17 April./ITAR-TASS/. Russian military servicemen assisted in providing security when Crimea held a referendum on secession from Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Speaking at his annual Q&A session, Putin said he never kept it a secret with his foreign colleagues that Russian military helped to provide security during the Crimean referendum “so that there (in Crimea) would be no tanks, combat detachments of nationalists and extremist-oriented people armed with automatic weapons.”
“That is why Crimean forces of self-defense were backed up by our (Russian) troops, who acted in an appropriate, but determined and professional way,” the president said.
Putin said “it would have been impossible to hold an open and honest referendum” without the security provision by the Russian military.
“Keep it in mind that there were over 20,000 well-armed (Ukrainian) soldiers at that time in Crimea, 38 S-300 missile air-defense systems, arms depots and loads of ammunition,” he said. “It was necessary to cut off any access to these weapons so that they would not be used against civilians.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin during Q&A live session said that Russia has never planned military operations in Crimea, was ready to build relations in existing geopolitical realities but it was forced to act because there were real threats to Russian speakers.
“Russia did not plan annexations and military operations in Crimea and was ready to build relations proceeding from geopolitical realities. The risks were that the threats against Russians, Russian speakers were concrete and tangible. This prompted Crimea’s people to think of the future and turn to Russia for help, and that’s what we were guided by,” Putin said.
At a meeting of the Russian Security Council everybody supported decisions on Crimea, Putin added.
Referendum results were decisive in making decision on Crimea accession, the Russian president said.
Vladimir Putin noted that Russsian military acted resolutely and professionally behind Crimea' self-defence forces to ensure free referendum in peninsula and prevent use of force against civilians.
Putin emphasized that “we have always thought and hoped that our people, Russian-speaking people, will live in conditions comfortable for them, in a comfortable situation, and will not be oppressed in any way, and will not be threatened in any way”.
“But when the situation with threats and oppressions arose, when the Crimean people started saying that it strives for self-determination, then we began thinking what to do. And it was then and not 5, 10, 20 years ago that the decision was made to support Crimeans,” the president said.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities, brought to power amid riots after a coup in February.
Russia’s decisions on Crimea to a certain extent stemmed from the threat of Ukraine’s accession to NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
“When a military infrastructure is approaching our borders, we must take counter steps,” he said. “So, the decision on Crimea was to a certain extent linked with it.”
“We were also guided by the following considerations - if we do nothing, they would drag Ukraine into NATO and say ‘This is no concern of yours,’ and NATO warships would call at the city of Russian military glory (Sevastopol).”
The Russian president noted that in the present-day world the proximity to borders was not that important than it had been before in terms of combat operations. “But if NATO troops are there (in Crimea), they would deploy offensive arms there and Russia would find itself squeezed out of the Black Sea region,” he explained.
Black Sea Fleet
Considerable part of Black Sea Fleet vessels from Novorossiysk will be transferred to Sevastopol, Vladimir Putin noted.
“We had concrete agreements with Ukraine over upgrading the fleet, but unfortunately these agreements were fulfilled very weakly or were not fulfilled at all and we had big problems with the fleet’s refurbishment,” Putin said, adding that “There will be no such problems today. A large part of modern warships, logistic support ships will be transferred to Sevastopol from Novorossiysk.
“But there will be no such problems today,” he said during the question-and-answer session.
Special program for developing Sevastopol naval base to be adopted, all of Russian army's social programs will apply to it, the Russian president noted.
The Russian head of state stressed Crimea’s high potential from the viewpoint of shipbuilding and ship repair.
“So considerable volumes in this sense will be concentrated at Crimean shipyards as well,” he pledged. Putin added that the Russian Defense Ministry has already placed an order with one of the shipyards to the total tune of 5 billion rubles [$139 million].
“We will enhance this potential of Crimea,” Putin said.
Putin promises to force the transfer of Crimea to the ruble turnover.
All the benefits and advantages that Crimeans had being as a part of Ukraine, will be saved with additional subsidies, and they get all the benefits that Russians have, Vladimir Putin added.
Expenses for subsidies of Crimean programmes do not require revision of Russian budget, the Russian president noted.