In recorded comments made for a documentary of the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin revealed that he had been readying Russia’s nuclear arms during the height of the Ukraine crisis.
Putin says the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was masterminded by the US, and claimed that forces involved in the “coup” were trained in Poland and Lithuania.
He went on to say that the annexation of Crimea was never even considered before the crisis began, but that given the large ethnic Russian majority, it was impossible not to return Crimea to its historical place as part of Russia.
The Crimean Peninsula had been part of Russia beginning in 1802, and was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. As the long-standing base of Russia’s western navy, its status became a matter of considerable concern amongst Russians after Ukraine’s independence in 1991.
Russia leased the base from Ukraine from then on, though pro-Western politicians often sought to expel Russia in favor of Western alternatives. The early 2014 regime change was extremely anti-Russian in nature, and would likely have led to another row over the base, had not the referendum been held in which Crimea seceded from Ukraine and was reannexed into Russia.