"You know, the people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were," he said on ABC's "This Week." "And you have to look at that, also. Now, that was under -- just so you understand, that was done under Obama's administration. ... Crimea has been taken. Don't blame Donald Trump for that."
Trump made those comments just after saying Putin is "not going into Ukraine."
"Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas. He's not going into Ukraine, OK?" Trump said of Putin. "Just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want."
At that point in the interview, moderator George Stephanopoulos reminded Trump of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and other parts of eastern Ukraine--which stands in seeming contradiction with Trump's insistence that Putin will steer clear of the country.
"OK, well, he's there in a certain way, but I'm not there yet," he said. "You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama, with all the strength that you're talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this, in the meantime, he's going where -- he takes -- takes Crimea."
The topic of Ukraine about the new language in the Republican Party platform on Ukraine, which took out a provision calling for weapons for Ukraine to defend themselves against Russia and the rebels.
Asked why the platform included that change, Trump insisted he had no part in it. "I wasn't involved in that," he said. "Honestly, I was not involved."
In a statement Sunday evening, Clinton Senior Policy Adviser Jake Sullivan said Trump's comments are "scary stuff" but that they "shouldn't surprise us," given his other recent comments about foreign policy issues.
"What is he talking about? Russia is already in Ukraine. Does he not know that? What else doesn't he know?" Sullivan said. "While Trump hasn't mastered basic facts about the world, he has mastered Putin's talking points on Crimea (which, of course, the United States and most of the world still recognizes as part of Ukraine). Today, he gamely repeated Putin's argument that Russia was justified in seizing the sovereign territory of another country by force."