None of what you say is news to me and I'm also not basing any of my assessments on any US media, because they total shit. (Well, I do sometimes take a glimpse at the NY times web pages which are not too bad.) I'm also not from the US.
It is an undeniable fact that Putin is about to annex Crimea in violation all treaties with Ukraine and international public law. It is also a fact that Russia has no track record of protecting minorities in their own country, in fact they suppress them brutally and Moscow's streets are roaming with all kinds of thugs and Neo-Nazis. Putins alleged "reasons" for protecting the Russian speaking population of Ukraine are ridiculous and entirely made up. Moreover, it is a fact that Crimea was occupied by foreign enemy forces and you must be a complete moron if you think that about 16000 to 30000 "pro-Russian self-defense forces" suddenly emerged from the Crimean population, incuding Russian military trucks, Russian combat fatigues, Russian arms and specialized Spetznaz equipment.
The way you depict the political situation is also not quite right. You've fallen prey to propaganda in Russian media, which works even if you think it doesn't (like advertisement). Everybody knows that about 60% of the population on Crimea speaks Russian, but doesn't mean that they want to join Russia. In any case a referendum is staged and meaningless, even the decisions of the Crimean parliament are not worth the paper they are printed on as long as it is occupied and controlled by Russian troops. It's not as if Russia had free elections, it is essentially a dictatorship run by cleptocrats and former KGB officers.
You also seriously underestimate Putins efforts if you think all those "pro Russia" cheers are honest expression of feelings. He can literally spend billions of dollars on the Crim to assure the right outcome and will still make a bargain. Perhaps there is a slight real majority for becoming a part of Russia there. We will never know because the whole situation and the referendum has has "FSB" written all over in huge letters. Until now the situation was halfway decent but it's getting uglier each day. The Ukrainean minority on the Crimean peninsula is already starting to suffer and it's also not so easy to flee.
You are right if you think that Putin has no partical interest in the Crimea per se, though. All he wants is to keep the Black Sea Fleet were it is, access to the ports and consequently keep Ukraine out of Nato, and he will do anything to ensure that, even if it means that he has to invade Ukraine as a whole and install another puppet regime there. The people in Kiev know that, of course, and that they would loose any direct confrontation, hence the restrained reaction. That being said, he is right in one thing: The Svoboda party is a bunch of Nazi thugs. But as mentioned before, it's not as if there weren't any Nazis in the Duma