Speed Reads

Crisis in Ukraine

Putin admits he planned to annex Crimea weeks before disputed referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he began maneuvering to annex Crimea about a month before Moscow officially seized the former Ukrainian peninsula last March. That revelation comes from a documentary clip that aired Sunday on state-run TV in which Putin discusses behind-the-scenes political machinations from a Feb. 22 meeting.

"I invited the leaders of our special services and the Defense Ministry to the Kremlin and gave them the task of saving the life of the Ukrainian president, who simply would have been liquidated," Putin said, according to The New York Times. "We finished about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues, 'We are obliged to begin working to bring Crimea back into Russia.'"

That would contradict Putin's past assertions that Russia remained impartial until Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine in late March. Putin also initially denied Russian troops had entered Crimea ahead of the referendum, though he later admitted that wasn't quite true.