April 2015 – CRIMEA – Russia was ready to put its nuclear forces on alert over the crisis in Crimea last year, such was the threat to Russian people there, President Vladimir Putin said in a documentary that aired on state TV on Sunday night. Asked if Russia was prepared to bring its nuclear weapons into play, Putin said: “We were ready to do it. I talked with colleagues and told them that this (Crimea) is our historic territory, Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. “It wasn’t us who committed a coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs.”
But this was the worst-case scenario, he added, in the documentary broadcast on state-run channel Rossiya One. “I don’t think this was actually anyone’s wish — to turn it into a world conflict.” It wasn’t known when the interview was originally taped. It aired even as speculation mounted about Putin’s health, following an absence of several days from the public stage. He reappeared in public Monday. Russia formally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last March, after Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted following street protests that turned bloody. Russia called his ouster a coup by radical Ukrainian nationalists. Before Crimea was formally absorbed by Russia, unidentified armed men had taken control of its administrative buildings and key military sites. A referendum was held on March 16, 2014 — a year ago to the day — on secession from Ukraine. Ukrainian officials at the time denied there was any threat to Russian citizens in Crimea.
On Monday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Putin had ordered Russia’s Northern Fleet and other military units to be placed on full combat alert for snap checks, state media reported. “The main aim … is to evaluate the capabilities of the Northern Fleet to fulfill tasks on ensuring Russia’s military security in the Arctic,” Shoigu is quoted as saying by Russia’s Tass news agency. The exercise will involve 38,000 military personnel, 41 warships, 15 submarines and 110 planes and helicopters, Shoigu said, according to Tass. –CNN