0147 GMT March 24, 2018
In a documentary published Sunday, Putin reacted almost angrily to a journalist who asked him if there were any circumstances under which Crimea would return to Ukraine, saying that the Black Sea peninsula, which joined Russia after a referendum in 2014, would never return to the Ukrainians.
“What, have you gone mad?” said Putin in response to the journalist’s question, adding, “There are no such circumstances and never will be.”
The rejoining of Crimea to Russia came following deep political changes in Kiev where a pro-Western movement staged weeks of street protests that led to the ouster of the pro-Russia government. People in Crimea and in the industrial eastern territories of Ukraine, areas which are dominated by ethnic Russians, effectively refused to endorse the new administration in Kiev. Crimea decided to join Russia and two provinces in the east revolted by establishing self-declared republics.
Led by the United States, Western governments have imposed rounds of security and economic sanctions on Russia over what they designate as the illegal annexation of Crimea. The sanctions have proven to be biting but Putin, who has in return imposed a ban on some imports from the West, insists that the Crimea’s rejoining was legal and based on the will of majority of people living in the region.
Putin’s decision on Crimea is believed to have significantly increased his popularity as many Russians see him as a leader who restored their country’s status as a global super power while resisting US interference in its backdoor. Polls show Putin has a high chance of winning another term as president in the upcoming elections in March 18.