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SIMFEROPOL, March 16. /TASS/. Crimea could not have remained independent after the March referendum voted for self-determination and needed help to weather the crisis, the Russian republic's head, Sergey Aksyonov, told journalists on Monday.
"Amid the external pressure at that time, Crimea could hardly remain independent and withstand the onslaught alone," he said. "That’s because we have a limited amount of armaments and units capable of fulfilling certain tasks," he told reporters at a gathering in the capital, Simferopol.
"Now we need to fulfill our gains...to improve quality of life for Crimeans This will be impossible without our youth and our human resources," he said.
Interviewed by the UK broadcaster BBC on Monday, marking the first anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, Aksyonov said Russia’s decision to protect the citizens of the Black Sea peninsula was right.
Russia faced a choice: whether to "protect the population of Crimea or abandon them to Ukrainian nationalists," Aksyonov said.
"Nobody interfered with the internal politics of Ukraine," he said, noting that reunification had been a "democratic act" and not "an act of aggression", as opponents claimed.
Crimea would never again be part of Ukraine, Aksyonov said. "That was the choice of the Crimeans. Nothing could happen without the support of the local population, which is why this was not an act of aggression but a real democratic act," he said.
Western claims that reunification was illegal was "the main mistake and misunderstanding of Western leaders." "People are misinformed by the media, which fails to give an accurate picture of what happened last year in Crimea," he said.
Crimea was part of Russia from 1784 until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Crimea remained part of independent Ukraine after the USSR collapsed in 1991.
In the March 2014 referendum, around 97% of voters supported reunification with Russia. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Crimea’s reintegration into Russia the same month.