Putin: Plans to take control of Crimea began before referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered for work to start on taking control of Crimea weeks before a referendum which Kremlin officials claimed prompted the region's annexation from Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin Credit: Reuters

In an interview with Russian state television channel Rossiya-1 broadcast on Sunday, Putin said that the plans were first discussed in February last year during an emergency meeting about the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.

His account is at odds with previous Kremlin statements that claimed that the annexation decision was taken after the referendum on March 16, when Crimeans voted to become part of the Russian Federation.

This was on the night of Feb. 22 through to Feb. 23. We finished around 7 in the morning. And, while saying goodbye, I told all the colleagues: 'We have to start the work on Crimea's return into Russia'."

– President Vladimir Putin

Western governments have condemned Russia's intervention in Crimea as illegal, with the European Union and United States imposing sanctions on Moscow.