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PETROPAVLOVSK KAMCHATSKY, April 19, /ITAR-TASS/. President Vladimir Putin said he would award the Russian military who had ensured security during the March 16 referendum in Crimea, in which its residents voted for secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia.
“I don’t think we will know [the names of those who participated in that mission] any time soon, but they will certainly get state awards,” Putin said in an interview with Sergei Brilev’s Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) television programme on April 19.
He admitted that the West may misinterpret his remarks about the Russian military having helped to ensure security in Crimea. “I know and said this [during the call-in session with the people of Russia on April 17] intentionally, but if we are honest and objective, everyone will understand that there is no way one can drive people out of their homes and make them go vote at gunpoint,” Putin said, adding that the “turnout [at the Crimean referendum] was 83 percent.”
The president stressed that the mission in Crimea had differed dramatically from the counter-terrorism operation in the North Caucasus. “There is a world of difference between the two, and it is in the fact that we faced the aggression of international terrorism in the North Caucasus. Essentially, there were well trained gangs that got supplies and arms from abroad. And this is a big difference,” Putin said.