Russian President Vladimir Putin says he ordered security officials in February 2014 to make plans to "save the life" of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's then-president, and to start planning for Russia's annexation of Crimea.
In a trailer aired Sunday on state television channel Rossiya-1 for an upcoming documentary, Putin said he called the officials, including the heads of Russia's security agencies and military, to the Kremlin and ordered them to make preparations to take Yanukovych out of Ukraine, claiming the pro-Russian president would otherwise have been killed.
Yanukovych was forced out of office following a wave of pro-Western opposition demonstrations.
"We prepared to take him right out of Donetsk (where Yanukovych is said to have had gone into hiding after fleeing Kyiv), by land, by sea and air," Putin said, noting that "heavy machine guns were mounted there so that there wouldn't be much discussion about it." Putin said the operation to take Yanukovych out of Ukraine took place over February 22-23, 2014.
Putin said that at the end of the Kremlin meeting, he told the security and military officials: "We are obliged to start working to return Crimea to Russia."
The trailer was shown on state television as the first anniversary of Russia seizure of Crimea from Ukraine approaches. The Black Sea peninsula was officially annexed by Russia on March 21, 2014.
Putin had been denying that Russian troops were involved in the seizure of Crimea, saying the secession was led by what he called local self-defense forces.