"In Donetsk and Lugansk people voted for independence, and the situation there is different," Putin said in an interview to the newspaper, which was published by the Kremlin.
"But the main thing, something we must always bear in mind, is that we should always respect the feelings and the choice of the people. And if somebody wants these territories to remain part of Ukraine, they should prove to those people that their lives would be better, more comfortable and safer within a unified state; that they would be able to provide for themselves and ensure their children's future within this state. But it is impossible to convince these people by means of weapons. These issues, issues of this kind can only be resolved by peaceful means," Putin said.
According to him, the Crimean scenario does not reflect Russia's position; it reflects the position of the people who live in Crimea.
"All our actions, including those with the use of force, were aimed not at tearing away this territory from Ukraine but at giving the people living there an opportunity to express their opinion on how they want to live their lives," he said.