VIENNA, June 4. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would not cede Crimea to Ukraine under any circumstances. At the same time, he said in an interview with Austria’s ORF broadcasting corporation in the run-up to his visit to Austria.
"When an unconstitutional armed coup happened in Ukraine, power was seized by force, our army was legally in Crimea, our military base was there under an agreement," Putin said. He drew attention to the fact that "Russian army was always present in Crimea."
"The first thing we did was to increase our contingent to protect our Armed Forces there, our military facilities, where, as we have seen, various assaults and encroachments were in preparation. That is how it all began," Putin said. "Our servicemen were always there. Like I said before - they were there, they did not participate in anything," he said.
"However, when the spiral of unconstitutional actions in Ukraine began twisting, when people in Crimea thought they were in danger, when nationalists were sent there by trains, started blocking buses and road transport, people wanted to protect themselves," Putin said. "This is how everything began, the process started in the parliament of Crimea to determine its independence from Ukraine," he added. The president noted that the UN Charter does not prohibit these actions, but on the contrary, "the right of nations to self-determination is explicitly stated" there.
"At this point, our Armed Forces, which did not even exceed the base’s number under the agreement … ensured independent free elections - the will of people living in Crimea," Putin said. He noted, "The decision to hold this referendum was made by the Crimean parliament, which was elected in full compliance with the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine before the events."
"Therefore, there was nothing illegal", the Russian president said.
Putin reiterated, "Crimea gained independence not as a result of the invasion of Russian troops, but through the will of the people of Crimea expressed in an open referendum." In his opinion, a referendum held by the people living in a certain territory cannot be called annexation.
Putin talked about Kosovo as an example, wondering why Kosovo leaving Serbia is called self-determination, rather than annexation. "The people of Kosovo did it only by the decision of the parliament, and the people of Crime did it through referendum, which was attended by over 90% of the people living in Crimea, and about the same number of people - around 90% - voted for independence, and then for joining Russia," he said. "Is this not democracy? What is it then? And then what is democracy?" Putin asked.
He unequivocally answered the question about possible conditions under which Russia could cede Crimea, "There are no such conditions and there cannot be any."