Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.
Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.
In the interview, Putin claimed he began hatching plans to seize the peninsula after Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled the country following months of protests. Putin also alleged he personally delivered direct orders to the country’s armed forces, as thousands of elite Russian soldiers fanned out across Crimea last March.
When asked whether Moscow’s nuclear capabilities were also on standby, Putin answered bluntly: “We were ready to do it.”
The airing of Putin’s nuclear comments comes as the Russian strongman has seemingly vanished from the public sphere only days after a prominent opposition leader was assassinated within earshot of the Kremlin.
The President was reportedly last seen on March 5, fueling rumors that the 62-year-old had fallen ill or was caught up in an internal power struggle.