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Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev: Crimean referendum "happy event"

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 8:33 am

MOSCOW — Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has hailed Crimea's vote to join Russia as a "happy event."

Gorbachev said in remarks carried Tuesday by online newspaper Slon.ru that the vote offered the Crimean residents the freedom of choice and justly reflected their will.

He said that Sunday's referendum showed that "people really wanted to return to Russia" and was a "happy event."

Gorbachev added that the Crimean referendum has set an example for people in Russian-speaking in eastern Ukraine, who also should decide their fate.

Gorbachev, who resigned as the Soviet president on Christmas Day 1991, has voiced regret that he was unable to stem the Soviet Union's collapse. He has criticized President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian policy, but said Tuesday that he supports his course in the Ukrainian crisis.