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Crimea is a former Ukrainian region that joined Russia in mid-March after a referendum because it refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean plebiscite on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
In late August, Vladimir Putin said Russia did not annex Crimea but protected the peninsula.
"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.