On 18 March 2014, the referendum in Crimea sealed the peninsula’s connection to Russia, after the latter sent its troops. In fact, Moscow could not conceive that this peninsula, strategic and historically Russian, was going to become Western, or that NATO would set up troops there.
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the annexation of Crimea, claiming that Crimean citizens chose to rejoin Russia through a legal democratic referendum.
No international body recognizes the so-called referendum, announced on 27 February 2014, and held on 16 March 2014. For the EU statement on the fifth anniversary of Crimea's annexation, see here.
A year after the illegal annexation, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that the plan to annex Crimea was ordered weeks before the so-called referendum.
The NATO expansion is also a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative. NATO does not "expand" in the imperialistic sense described by the Kremlin leadership and Russian state media, but instead considers the applications of candidate countries that want to join the defensive alliance of their own national will.