Putin defends moves to annex Crimea
Published 18/03/2014 | 08:07
Russian president Vladimir Putin has defended his country's move to annex Crimea, saying that the rights of ethnic Russians have been abused by the Ukrainian government.
In a televised address to the nation, he said Crimea's vote on Sunday to join Russia is in line with international law, reflecting its right for self-determination.
He pointed at the example of Kosovo's independence bid, supported by the West, and said that Crimea's secession from Ukraine repeats Ukraine's own secession from the Soviet Union in 1991.
He denied Western accusations that Russia invaded Crimea prior to the referendum, saying Russian troops were sent there in line with a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea.
Mr Putin said Crimea should be part of Russia but added that Russia does not want to move to other regions of Ukraine, saying "we don't want division of Ukraine".
The Russian leader said his country had to respond to what he described as a Western plot to take Ukraine into its sphere of influence.
He said protests that drove out former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych were encouraged by the West.