Increasingly erratic Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow's seizure of Crimea righted a historical injustice, according to news agency reports on Sunday. The comment was observed by a documentary film crew it was reported.
The annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 provoked the worst conflict between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Putin said he had no regrets.
"It's not because Crimea has a strategic importance in the Black Sea region. It's because this has elements of historical justice. I believe we did the right thing and I don't regret anything," the Moscow-based RIA news agency quoted Putin as saying in the documentary "The President".
Putin also said he thinks the sanctions imposed by the West after the annexation were aimed at halting Russia's progress as a global power.
The film, a propaganda piece marking Putin's 15 years in power, has already been aired in Russia's Far East. It was slated to be shown in western Russia at 2130 Moscow time (2:30 p.m. EDT) on Sunday.
Crimea was administered as part of Russia within the Soviet Union until it was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 under an agreement by both parties. The peninsula, connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge, provides the base for the Russian navy's Black Sea fleet.
Russia's annexation of Crimea last year followed the toppling of a Moscow-allied Ukrainian president in Kiev. The former president was desposed after he ditched a deal to move closer to the European Union unilaterally.
Russia has sent troops into the region, thinly disguised as 'rebels', to foment violence and agitate for succession despite little popular support for being part of Russia.
Putin condemned punitive sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union, in what is likely a tacit admission they are working. The sanctions, combined with low oil prices, are severely impacting the Russian economy and are being felt particularly by Russia's ruling elite, of which Mr. Putin is a member.
"We have witnessed such attempts during Russia's entire history, dating back to tsarist times. This attempt to deter Russia, this policy, has been known for a long time, for centuries. There is nothing new," RIA quoted him as saying.
Putin said Western leaders would like to see Russia begging with its "cap in hand".
The outbursts show just how out of touch the despotic leader is - both with political reality and with working class Russians who are weary of sanctions. They also reveal increasing desperation as the forceful dictator struggles to negotiate political wins for his country on the international stage.