Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Wednesday that he would like to see Crimea back in Ukraine, but the decision should depend on people living there.

“I would appreciate very much if Crimea returned to Ukraine, but it will depend on Crimea itself and its people. Since at a time when they decided to leave Ukraine they were protecting themselves, their families, it was their decision. I was in Crimea and saw their determination, on the one hand, and serious anxiety, on the other hand, as they were afraid that the Maidan events would unfold on Crimea’s territory,” Yanukovich told reporters.

The former president added that Ukrainian authorities always knew about pro-Russian sentiments in Crimea and this case showed that people and their opinion should be respected.

“Everything what happened in Crimea showed to irresponsible politicians the way how people and their opinion should not be treated. Crimea under rule of extremists would threaten Crimean population and no one has doubts about it. The decision of Crimeans was predictable, we always knew that there were pro-Russian sentiments,” the ex-president pointed out.

Yanukovich was toppled and forced to flee Ukraine as a result of the protests which sparked in Kiev’s landmark Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, in 2013 and marked the start of the political crisis.

Following the coup, Crimea seceded from Ukraine and reunified with Russia after 96 percent of its voters supported such a move through a referendum in March 2014.

Kiev, as well as Brussels and Washington, did not recognize the decision of Crimea’s residents. Russian authorities have repeatedly said that the Crimean population decided to rejoin Russia in a democratic procedure.

 

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