"We did not take away Crimea [from Ukraine] and did not annex it. We allowed people to express their position and treated it with respect," he said.
Putin said that if Russia did not protect Crimea, it would have been involved in a crisis similar to that in Ukraine's south-east.
The Russian president added that it will take time before Crimea will be recognized as part of Russia. He said the recognition process will be "long and tedious", adding that Russia will make every effort to help Crimean residents solve any problems emerging due to the republic's current status.