Moscow: President Vladimir Putin Friday acknowledged for the first time that Russia had helped Ukraine`s former pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych flee his country.
"I won`t hide the fact that we helped him seek refuge in Crimea. At the time, Crimea was a part of Ukraine," Putin told Russian and foreign experts at an annual do.
"But as the events in Kiev evolved very fast and in a tumultuous manner," it was not possible for Yanukovych to return to the capital, he said.
"I`m telling you frankly, Yanukovych asked to be brought to Russia and we did that," he added.
Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February and he and his family have been living in Russia.
An aide to the Ukrainian interior minister claimed Friday that Putin, through a secret decree, had granted Yanukovych and his allies Russian citizenship, but Moscow has not clearly responded to the allegation.