Putin Says Russia Was Ready to Activate Nuclear Arsenal Over Crimea

MOSCOW (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -
A Pro-Russian rebel looks at an unexploded “Uragan” rocket in Debaltseve, Eastern Ukraine, Saturday. Ukraine said it has placed a formal request with the United Nations for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed in its eastern regions, where a cease-fire between government troops and Russian-backed separatist forces is in place. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
A Pro-Russian rebel looks at an unexploded “Uragan” rocket in Debaltseve, Eastern Ukraine, Saturday. Ukraine said it has placed a formal request with the United Nations for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed in its eastern regions, where a cease-fire between government troops and Russian-backed separatist forces is in place. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

Russia would have activated its nuclear arsenal if necessary a year ago when its troops secured the Crimean peninsula and carried out a referendum on the strategic peninsula’s secession from Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a documentary that aired Sunday.

In the report timed to Monday’s anniversary of the referendum, “Crimea: Path to the Motherland,” Putin justifies Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea territory as necessary to protect Russians and military bases from what he described as a nationalist junta that had taken power in Kiev.

Putin accused the United States of masterminding the three-month uprising in the Ukrainian capital that ended with the ouster of Kremlin-allied President Viktor Yanukovich, who has since taken refuge in Russia.

The documentary presented a vibrant and defiant image of the Russian president, who hasn’t been seen in public for more than a week. The documentary covered the year since the March 16 referendum in which 97 percent of voters among Crimea’s 2 million residents were said to have supported secession. Two days later, Putin issued a decree annexing the peninsula, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet and Soviet-era air bases.

“We deployed them in a way that made them seen clearly from space,” Putin said of the missiles.

He also said the Russian military had been prepared to put nuclear weapons on alert if necessary.

Putin said he ordered the Crimean operation to protect the Russian community there.