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

In this Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 file photo former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 82, gives an interview to The Associated Press at the International Government Communication Forum, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Gorbachev said in remarks carried Tuesday, March 18, 2014, by online newspaper Slon.ru that the vote offered the Crimean residents the freedom of choice and justly reflected their will. Gorbachev hailed Crimea’s referendum that backed joining Russia as a “happy event.” (Associated Press file photo)
In this Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 file photo former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 82, gives an interview to The Associated Press at the International Government Communication Forum, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Gorbachev said in remarks carried Tuesday, March 18, 2014, by online newspaper Slon.ru that the vote offered the Crimean residents the freedom of choice and justly reflected their will. Gorbachev hailed Crimea’s referendum that backed joining Russia as a “happy event.” (Associated Press file photo)
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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press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 08:30 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.

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