Russia formally annexed former Ukrainian peninsular region Crimea on March 18, 2014, to international condemnation. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed when he gave the secret order to annex Crimea. In a trailer released Sunday for an upcoming documentary “Homeward Bound” on state-run Rossiya-1 television, Putin said he ordered work on “returning Crimea to Russia” at an all-night meeting in February last year.

Russia's Annexation Of Crimea: Putin Reveals When He Gave The Secret Order

Russia was prepared to rescue Yanukovych

The secret meeting was held at the Kremlin during the night of 22-23 February to plan the rescue of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Mr. Putin had invited leaders of Russia’s special services and defense ministry to the meeting. He described how Russian forces were ready to rescue Ukraine’s deposed, pro-Moscow president Yanukovych.

The meeting ran through seven in the morning. At the end of the secret meeting, Putin told all his colleagues, “We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia.” Four days later, armed men seized local government buildings and local parliament in Crimea on February 27. Though the armed men resembled the Russian army, they carried no insignia of Russian military, reports BBC News.

Russia had kept the entire operation secret

A vote was held on March 16 to decide Crimea’s future. On March 18, Vladimir Putin signed a bill on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Moscow had kept the entire operation secret at the time. Russia had denied any involvement in the Ukraine crisis. But Putin later admitted deploying forces in Crimea. Complete details of Yanukovych’s escape are still unclear.

Putin said Yanukovych could have been killed. So, Russia had placed heavy machine guns to avoid wasting time talking. He said Russian troops were “ready to get him (Yanukovych) right out of Donetsk by land, by sea, or by air.”  Rossiya-1 said it would broadcast the documentary soon, without specifying a release date. Over 6,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukraine’s government forces and Russian-backed separatists since last year.