For the first time in the year since the conquest, Russian President Vladimir Putin explained in the documentary Homeward Bound the exact plan he concocted to capture Crimea out of Ukrainian possession. He also went into detail regarding how Russian soldiers prepared to rescue ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
“We ended at about seven in the morning,” explained Putin. “When we were parting, I said to my colleagues: we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia.”
Pro-Western Ukrainians established a protest movement known as Euromaidan in Kiev in November 2013 after Yanukovych chose closer ties to Russia instead of ones with Europe. After three months, parliament kicked out Yanukovych on February 22, 2014. Crimea pushed out their Kiev-appointed mayor and appointed a pro-Russia mayor. On February 26, 150 gunmen stormed government buildings and raised the Russian flag. Then, Crimea’s parliament dissolved their government and elected a Russian speaker.
At the time, the Kremlin insisted it was only locals who participated in the takeover. However, in the documentary, Moscow finally admitted the Russian government was behind the seizure. In 2010, Yanukovych extended an agreement with Russia to host Moscow’s Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
A vote held on March 16 showed 90% of the residents voted to join Russia. The West condemned the vote and refused to recognize it. President Barack Obama and the European Union imposed numerous sanctions against Russia. On March 21, Putin signed the bill that officially annexed and absorbed Crimea into Russia anyway.
Yanukovych fled to Donetsk, his hometown, in east Ukraine after parliament voted him out. He was kept undercover and away from prying eyes for safety.
“He would have been killed,” he said. “We got ready to get him right out of Donetsk by land, by sea or by air. Heavy machineguns were mounted there to avoid talking too much.”
Two Russian media outlets claimed Yanukovych was in Russia. Putin’s official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta asserted the CIA escorted him to Moscow and RBC said he was at a luxury health resort outside of Moscow.
Yanukovych surfaced inside of Russia. He provided an interview to the Associated Press on April 2, 2014. Surprisingly, despite his strong Russian views, he told the AP that “Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy.”
“We must search for ways … so that Crimea may have the maximum degree of independence possible … but be part of Ukraine,” he said.
Russian television station Rossiya-1 did not present a release date of the documentary.