Useful reminder, this is what Putin said back on March 18, 2014 (you might also put Donbass right next to the references to Crimea). This is thus Putin himself speaking according to the Kremlin's own official translation and transcript:
"Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. ... Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour ... In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.
After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – MAY GOD JUDGE THEM – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population ... Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered [Putin was and is anti-communist, obviously] to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. ... Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it WAS NOT SIMPLY ROBBED, BUT PLUNDERED.
At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. ... the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders. Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. ... Today we can speak about it openly ... Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.
I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. ... However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day. ... Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II. It is also obvious that THERE IS NO LEGITIMATE EXECUTIVE POWER in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. ... Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.
NATURALLY, WE COULD NOT LEAVE THIS PLEAD UNHEEDED; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETRAYAL ON OUR PART.
First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. ...
Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent ... Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” CRYSTAL CLEAR, as they say.
... We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. ... One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow [just like in Crimea versus Donbass]. ... we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything [does even "not engaging in hypocrisy have its limit too here?]. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.
After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. RUSSIA FOUND ITSELF IN A POSITION IT COULD NOT RETREAT FROM. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.
.... I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. ... I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us... I want you to hear me, my dear friends. DO NOT BELIEVE those who want you to fear Russia, SHOUTING THAT OTHER REGIONS WILL FOLLOW CRIMEA [it seems that the decision to leave Donbass under the junta was already made up in Putin's mind or in the mind of his handlers now]. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.
... What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps! [after this anything like this was never to be heard from Putin again]
Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And THIS STRATEGIC TERRITORY should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today CAN ONLY BE RUSSIAN. ... NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors [but can he imagine Odessa or Kharkov or Donetsk as such places where NATO would be running its new Ukrainian protectorate?]. ... Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity. [therefore if the Banderite, Nazi regime cannot--by definition and by its character--defend people's rights, it can't claim "territorial integrity" or "sovereignty" ...]
... are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we FOREVER [this use of the word "forever" shows Putin's admission that this is much what Russia has been doing for the last 25-30 years] give in, retreat to who knows where? [Exactly; that's the question] Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? ... The particular historic, population, political and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option — however tempting it could be at the first glance — only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there [exactly just as it happened in Donbass], which would have had disastrous effects on people’s lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no grey areas [but Lavrov,a perfect product of the 1990s, is a master of slick "gray areas"]. ... http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/20603