Following the 2014 Western-backed coup in Kyiv, a civil war broke out in east Ukraine and the residents of Crimea held a referendum to rejoin Russia.
This concise claim combines no fewer than three key narratives of Kremlin disinformation about Ukraine: that the 2014 Euromaidan revolution was a Western-backed coup; that Crimea "rejoined" Russia in a democratic "referendum"; and that the bloody conflict in east Ukraine is a civil war. By implication, the claim also paints Ukraine as a helpless non-entity caught between the meddling of Western governments and the incompetence of its own leaders.
The onset of the Euromaidan protests was a reaction of numerous parts of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013. See the full debunk here. See some more recent debunks of this claim here and here.
Crimea did not "rejoin" Russia, as it remains a part of sovereign Ukrainian territory according to an overwhelming majority of UN member states. The so-called "referendum" was held at gunpoint and featured no recognised election observers, but did see the involvement of far-right Kremlin loyalists invited to "monitor" the sham procedure. The ludicrous official result of 97% in favour of annexation was contested by the Kremlin's own Human Rights Council. See the full debunk here.
The statement presents the 2014 events in Crimea and the Donbas as a spontaneous response by swathes of Ukrainian society to the "coup" in Kyiv, which in turn escalated into a civil conflict. But Russian and Russia-sponsored actors had been busy fomenting separatist sentiments in east Ukraine since at least 2005. The active phase of the Donbas war was triggered with the 12 April 2014 assault on the city of Slovyans'k, led by Russian intelligence officer Igor Girkin. By September that year, Russia had sent up to 15,000 regular troops into the region.
Aleksandr Boroday, Russian citizen and former "prime minister" of the "people's republic" of Donets'k, said that the "scenarios in Crimea and east Ukraine were prepared by the same team." The statement is all the more illuminating in the context of Putin's later admission that preparations for the Crimea landgrab had been under way since late February.