Speaking at the Russia Calling Forum, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the Russian troops’ presence in Donbas.
“I would like to emphasize that we had to defend the Russian-speaking population in Donbas, we had to respond to the desire of the people living in Crimea to return to the Russian Federation,” Putin said.
The Russian President went on to say that the Western countries immediately started spinning "a new handwheel of anti-Russian policy and imposing sanctions."
It was reported earlier that Russia occupied Crimea in February-March 2014, calling the falsified referendum of March 16 as an expression of Crimeans will to join the Russian Federation. Most of the world has not recognized Crimea as part of Russia. For Ukraine, Crimea remains the temporarily occupied territory.
After the annexation of the Crimea, Russia has begun to destabilize the situation in Donbas supplying military equipment and regular troops to the illegally created "DPR" and "LPR" (Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics). Military operations have been conducted there since April 2014.