He said this in an interview with German Bild news outlet, Censor.NET reports.
"Our soldiers have merely prevented the Ukrainian troops on Crimea from impeding the freedom of expression of the people," Putin said.
"In the referendum - which was still decided to take place by the Crimea's old parliament - the majority of citizens voted for belonging to Russia. This is democracy, the people's will. For me, it is not borders and state territories that matter, but people's fortunes," he said.
It should be reminded that the Russian Federation occupied Crimea in March 2014 after holding the illegal referendum. Putin signed a decree recognizing the "independence" of Crimea March 17, 2014. He signed an agreement with the self-proclaimed authorities of the peninsula on accession of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation the next day.
Read the full text of the interview here.
Related materials: Occupation of Crimea