"Our military personnel stood behind the Crimean self-defense forces ' back. But they acted reasonably. Otherwise, it was impossible to hold the referendum openly and in a suitable manner. There were more than 20,000 military personnel as well as ammunition storage in Crimea. It was necessary to guard the people even from the possibility of using it," Putin said today during the "direct line" when answering a question about the "polite people" in Crimea, Censor.NET reports citing HP.
Earlier, Putin had denied that people in uniform that had been present on the peninsula during pro-Russian demonstrations were Russian military personnel. "Look at the post-Soviet territory - it's full of uniforms similar to Russian. Go to the store and buy one. No, these are local self-defense forces," the president claimed at a press-conference on March 4, 2014.
Today Putin also stated that there were no Russian units in the east of Ukraine. "There are no special services, no instructors. These are all local citizens. The very best proof of this is that the people, as they say, took the masks off," he said.