(QHA) -

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Crimea had a sacred meaning for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for Jews and Muslims.

Putin was speaking during his annual address Dec 4 to parliament and top officials in Moscow.

“Crimea for Russians is like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for Muslims and Jews and would be regarded this way from now on and forever”- Putin said.

Putin also noted that Vladimir the Great was baptized in Kherson, Crimea, in 988, an event that is considered to be the beginning of the Christianization of Kievan Rus, a precursor state to Russia and Ukraine.

Russian President also noted that Western sanctions were a response to Russia's growing strength, not it's stance on the Ukraine crisis

"The West was unable to find other pretexts to curb Russia's influence," Putin added.