Igor Girkin tells Russian TV that Crimeans did not support Russian annexation.
Ex-insurgent leader Igor Girkin ('Strelkov') has admitted in a recent Russian TV interview that the March 2014 Crimean referendum was forced through by Russian occupation forces and received almost no local support.
In an interview on the ‘Polit-Ring TV show on Russia's NeuroMirTV earlier this week, Girkin, who was present throughout the seizure of Crimeabefore playing a leading role in theRussian insurgency in east Ukraine, admitted that the whole referendum was only possible thanks to the presence of Russian troops.
During the interview, Girkin explained that Crimean MPs had been rounded up and forced to vote for a referendum on the separation of Crimea from Ukraine.
"I did not see any support from the (Crimean) state authorities in Simferopol where I was. It was militants who collected deputies and forced them to vote. Yes, I was one of commanders of those militants," Girkin told Russian TV.
The Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 has sparked the biggest European security crisis since the end of the Cold War, leading to a virtual freeze in ties between Russia and the EU. The Russian Federation has repeatedly defended the Crimean referendum as legitimate, and initially claimed that militant forces which seized strategic buildings and infrastructure throughout Crimea in the run-up to the vote were merely concerned local citizens.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin later admitted that the Russian army had been deployed in Crimea prior to the referendum. Russia also denies sending regular Russian army forces into east Ukraine.