MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Ukrainian nationalists bore full responsibility for the civil crisis in the country which resulted in the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
“We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, unlike those who have sacrificed Ukrainian unity for their political ambitions,” the Russian leader said, commenting on Crimea’s request to become a part of Russia. “They openly flaunted their commitment to a great Ukraine, but it’s they who are actually responsible for their country’s breakup.”
On Tuesday, Putin and the leaders of Crimea signed a treaty making the autonomous Ukrainian republic a part of Russia.
Putin said that the political crisis in Ukraine was carried out by a “pre-trained and well-equipped army of militants,” whose task was to undermine Ukraine’s ties with Russia and other former Soviet states.
He added that when Russia recognized Crimea as a part of independent Ukraine in 1991, it expected that Russian speakers would live in a “friendly, democratic and civilized” country.
However, he said, the Ukrainian government attempted to forcefully assimilate the Russian-speaking minority and deprive them of their language and history.
Last month, Crimean authorities refused to recognize the legitimacy of the newly established government in Kiev and called a referendum on reunification with Russia instead.
The move followed a number of legal initiatives arousing concern that a surge of nationalism in the former Soviet nation could unfairly marginalize the substantial ethnic Russian community.
Putin said that Russia will always protect the interests of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minority “by political, diplomatic and legal means.”
"We want peace and conciliation in Ukraine and, together with other countries, are ready to provide all types of support. But it’s up to Ukrainians to clean up the mess in their own home,” he said.