Ukraine’s authorities, who assumed power after the 2014 coup d’etat, made every effort to push Crimea away forcing its citizens to seek protection, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich told a news conference.
"There is such an impression that the authorities did their utmost to push Crimea away from Ukraine, and get rid of the troublesome territory," Yanukovich stressed.
"Given the evidence of many witnesses in court, we may definitely say that those who took power didn’t take any particular steps to keep Crimea as part of Ukraine. At that moment, it was more important for them to divvy up power," he said.
The former Ukrainian leader stressed that Crimea’s citizens had sought for the means to protect themselves and their families. "Crimea is not just a territory, its people are what matters most. And they made their decision, which was forced and predictable," he said.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of Kiev authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The Russian president signed the reunification deals March 18, 2014. Despite the convincing results of the referendum, Kiev refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia.