Moscow: President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia took over Crimea because it had to protect Crimea`s mostly ethnic-Russian population after pro-Western Ukrainian nationalists came to power in Ukraine.
In the latest preview extracts of an upcoming documentary called "Homeward bound" on state-run Rossiya-1 television, Putin portrayed Russia`s military takeover and annexation of the Ukrainian province as a rescue mission.
"We were forced to start working on returning Crimea to Russia because we could not abandon this territory and the people who live there to the mercy of fate, to be crushed by nationalists, " Putin said.
Shortly after the February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine`s Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev, Russian soldiers suddenly fanned across Crimea, which has deep ethnic-Russian roots and where there was less support for the pro-Western revolution in the capital.
A subsequent referendum staged after Ukrainian authorities had already been forced out gave overwhelming backing to making the Black Sea peninsula part of Russia.
The military operation was initially kept secret, despite the increasingly obvious actions of unmarked Russian forces. Later, the Kremlin conceded that it had been behind the power grab.
In the upcoming documentary, Putin said his first step was to order an opinion poll on the population`s intentions. It found 75 percent support for joining Russia, he said, insisting that his decision to annex the territory only came later in response to the upheaval in Kiev.
"It became obvious to me that if we come close to this (happening), then the level, the number of those who would like this historic event to take place will be much higher," the president said.
"The final aim was not to seize Crimea, or some kind of annexation. The final aim was to give people the opportunity to express their opinion on how they want to live further," Putin insisted. "We acted as we were obliged to act."
In first excerpts of "Homeward bound" shown Sunday, Putin revealed the moment he says he gave the secret order for Russia`s annexation of Crimea. He also described how Russian troops were ready to fight to get Yanukovych to safety.
He recounted an all-night meeting with security services chiefs.
"We ended at about seven in the morning," Putin said. "When we were parting, I said to my colleagues: we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia."
"I set certain tasks: I said what we should do and how. But I straight away stressed that we would do this only if we are absolutely convinced that the people who live in Crimea themselves want this."
Rossiya-1 did not say when the full documentary, would be aired.