Ukraine Salvation Committee presidential candidate Vladimir Oleinik said Monday the current government should be blamed for losing Crimea to Russia. Oleinik, accompanied by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, told a press conference Crimea left Ukraine because it sensed war was imminent.

“Unfortunately, we lost Crimea because of criminal authorities that ignited ethnic strife and pushed away Crimea and Ukraine’s southeast by staging a coup," the Russian news agency Tass quoted Oleinik as saying. He reminded the people of Crimea pushed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko out of the peninsula before the referendum.

The former lawmaker said that he would make sure that Ukrainians felt comfortable in Crimea and vice versa. Oleinik said it is necessary to have direct negotiations among Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk to resolve political instability.

Crimea was a part of Russia in the Soviet Union until 1954. Later Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev assigned the Crimean region to Ukraine for logistical reasons.

More than 96 percent participating voters in Crimea voted in favor of reuniting with Russia in March 2014. However, the United Nations as well as leading Western nations strongly criticized the referendum and questioned its neutrality.

Italian newspaper La Presse reported Oleinik promised to “sign a decree to retire troops in their bases” if he was elected as the president. Azarov, who started the Moscow Committee for the Salvation of Ukraine, said it would be impossible to restore peace and harmony in Ukraine without changing the political leadership of the country.