Russian President, Vladimir Putin has admitted, for the first time, that the plan to annex Crimea was ordered weeks before the referendum on self-determination.
Crimea was formally absorbed into Russia on 18 March, to international condemnation, after unidentified gunmen took over the peninsula. Mr Putin said on TV he had ordered work on “returning Crimea” to begin at an all-night meeting on 22 February.
The meeting was called after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted.
Speaking last year, Mr Putin had said only that he took his final decision about Crimea after secret, undated opinion polls showed 80% of Crimeans favoured joining Russia. The findings of these polls were borne out by the outcome of the referendum on 16 March, he told Russian state TV last April.
Ukrainian Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych makes a speech to the heads of foreign missions in Kiev, Ukraine, on 4 April 2007 Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev on 22 February 2014. Speaking in a forthcoming Russian TV documentary, Mr Putin said a meeting with officials had been held on 22-23 February to plan the rescue of Ukraine’s deposed president. “I invited the leaders of our special services and the defence ministry to the Kremlin and set them the task of saving the life of the president of Ukraine, who would simply have been liquidated,” he said.