Putin raised issue of annexing Crimea at 'small' meeting on the night of Feb 22-23, 2014 – Ponomarev

 The question of Russia's annexation of Crimea was raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the night of February 22-23, 2014 at a meeting with several people, ex-Russian Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev has said.

Giving testimony in the state treason case against disgraced ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych at Kyiv's Obolonsky District Court on Wednesday, Ponomarev said after the signing on February 21, 2014 of an agreement between Yanukovych and representatives of the then Ukrainian opposition group leaders, he spoke with political experts from the team led by Putin's assistant Vladislav Surkov.

"I believed the agreement would not work and the political experts from Surkov's team believed the situation could be maintained and there would be snap elections which Yanukovych would win," Ponomarev said, adding that on February 22, 2014 he learned from Russia's federal protection service that Putin almost got into a helicopter accident in Sochi, Russia.

"Putin thought that it was an attempt on his life by foreign secret services. During the night of February 22-23 he met with a small number of advisors. Namely at that meeting he raised the issue of annexing Crimea," Ponomarev said.

Citing his interlocutor, Ponomarev said most of those attending the meeting were against annexing Crimea. They suggested using an already tested model, "the scenario analogous to Southern Osettia," when territory of another country declared independence, after which Russia could officially recognize it and later take a decision or not to incorporate the territory into Russia.