Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation

Crimean Crisis
Return of Crimea
Part of the Ukrainian crisis

Date20 February 2014 – 19 March 2014[1] (24 days)
 Russia  Ukraine


Volunteer units[14][16]

  • 5,000 (Sevastopol)
  • 1,700 (Simferopol)

Russian military forces

  • 20,000–30,000 troops[17]

Ukrainian Armed Forces defectors


Ukrainian military forces

  • 5,000–22,000 troops[21][22]
  • 40,000 reservists, partly mobilised (outside Crimea)[23]
Casualties and losses
1 Crimean SDF trooper killed[24]

2 soldiers killed,[25]

60–80 detained[26]
3 protesters died (2 pro-Russian and 1 pro-Ukrainian)[27][28][29][30]
All deaths were not related directly to military activities

The Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence and decided to return to the Russian Federation on 18 March 2014. Since then, the peninsula has been administered as two de facto Russian federal subjects—the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which, until 2016, were grouped in the Crimean Federal District.[31] The annexation was preceded by a military intervention by Russia in Crimea, which took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.[32][33]

On 22–23 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin convened an all-night meeting with security services chiefs to discuss extrication of the deposed Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, and at the end of that meeting Putin had remarked that "we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia."[34] On 23 February 2014, pro-Russian demonstrations were held in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. On 27 February masked Russian troops without insignia[2] took over the Supreme Council of Crimea,[35][36] and captured strategic sites across Crimea, which led to the installation of the pro-Russian Aksyonov government in Crimea and the declaration of Crimea's independence.[37][38]

Ukraine considers the annexation to be a violation of international law and agreements by Russia, including Agreement on Establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1991, Helsinki Accords, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1994 and Treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.[39] The event was condemned by many world leaders as an illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, signed by Russia.[40] It led to the other members of the then G8 suspending Russia from the group,[41] then introducing the first round of sanctions against the country. The United Nations General Assembly also rejected the vote and annexation, adopting a non-binding resolution affirming the "territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders".[42][43]

Following a Crimean referendum, held on 16 March 2014, in which separation was favoured by a large majority of voters, the UN resolution also "underscores that the referendum having no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of [Crimea]."[43] The resolution calls upon all States and international organizations not to recognize or to imply the recognition of Russia's annexation.[43]

The Russian Federation opposes the "annexation" label,[44] with Putin defending the referendum as complying with the principle of self-determination of peoples.[45][46] In July 2015, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Crimea had been fully integrated into Russia.[47]


Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet "About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast". Supreme Council Herald, 9 March 1954.

Crimea became part of the Russian Empire in 1783, when the Crimean Khanate was conquered, then became part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic until 1954.[48] Initially it was incorporated into the Empire as Taurida Oblast but in 1795 it was merged into Novorossiysk Governorate and then, in 1802, transferred to the Taurida Governorate. A series of short-lived governments (Crimean People's Republic, Crimean Regional Government, Crimean SSR) were established during first stages of the Russian Civil War, but they were followed by White Russian (General Command of the Armed Forces of South Russia, later South Russian Government). In October 1921, the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Russian SFSR was instituted. After the Second World War and the subsequent deportation of all of the indigenous Crimean Tatars, the Crimean ASSR was stripped of its autonomy in 1946 and was downgraded to the status of an oblast of the Russian SFSR.

Ukrainian stamp to honor Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who transferred Crimea from Russia to Ukraine

In 1954, the Crimean Oblast was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.

In 1989, under perestroika, the Supreme Soviet declared that the deportation of the Crimean Tatars under Stalin had been illegal,[49] and the mostly Muslim ethnic group was allowed to return to Crimea.[50]

In 1990, the Soviet of the Crimean Oblast proposed the restoration of the Crimean ASSR.[51] The oblast conducted a referendum in 1991, which asked whether Crimea should be elevated into a signatory of the New Union Treaty (that is, became a union republic on its own). By that time, though, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was well underway. The Crimean ASSR was restored for less than a year as part of Soviet Ukraine before Ukrainian independence. Newly independent Ukraine maintained Crimea's autonomous status,[52] while the Supreme Council of Crimea affirmed the peninsula's "sovereignty" as a part of Ukraine.[53][54] The autonomous status of Crimea was limited by Ukrainian authorities in 1995.[55][56]

In September 2008, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko accused Russia of giving out Russian passports to the population in Crimea and described it as a "real problem" given Russia's declared policy of military intervention abroad to protect Russian citizens.[57]

On 24 August 2009, anti-Ukrainian demonstrations were held in Crimea by ethnic Russian residents. Sergei Tsekov (of the Russian Bloc[58] and then deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament[59]) said then that he hoped that Russia would treat Crimea the same way as it had treated South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[60] Crimea is populated by an ethnic Russian majority and a minority of both ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, and thus demographically possessed one of the Ukraine's largest Russian populations.[61]

Euromaidan and the Ukrainian revolution

Euromaidan in Kiev, 11 December 2013

The Euromaidan protest movement began in Kiev in late November 2013 after President Viktor Yanukovych, of the Party of Regions, suspended the signing of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement.[62][63][64] Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election with strong support from voters in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine. The Crimean autonomous government strongly supported Yanukovych and condemned the protests, saying they were "threatening political stability in the country". The Crimean autonomous parliament said that it supported the government's decision to suspend negotiations on the pending association agreement and urged Crimeans to "strengthen friendly ties with Russian regions".[65][66][67]

On 4 February 2014, the Presidium of the Supreme Council considered holding a referendum on the peninsula's status, and asked the Russian government to guarantee the vote.[68][69] The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) responded by opening a criminal case to investigate the possible "subversion" of Ukraine's territorial integrity.[70] On 20 February 2014, during a visit to Moscow, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov stated that the 1954 transfer of Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic had been a mistake.[68]

The Euromaidan protests came to a head in late February 2014, and Yanukovych and many of his ministers fled the capital on 22 February.[71] After his flight, opposition parties and defectors from the Party of Regions put together a parliamentary quorum in the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament), and voted on 22 February to remove Yanukovych from his post on the grounds that he was unable to fulfil his duties,[72] although this legislative removal lacked the required three-quarter vote of sitting Rada members according to the constitution in effect at the time, which the Rada also voted to suspend.[73][74][75] Arseniy Yatsenyuk was appointed by the Rada to serve as the head of a caretaker government until new presidential and parliament elections could be held. This new government was recognised internationally, though the Russian government said that these events had been a "coup d'état", and that the caretaker government was illegitimate.[76][77]


Crimean crisis begins

Crimean "self-defence" members, 2 March 2014

The February 2014 revolution that ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych sparked a political crisis in Crimea, which initially manifested as demonstrations against the new interim Ukrainian government, but rapidly escalated. In January 2014 the Sevastopol city council had already set up local "self-defence" units.[78]

Crimean parliament members called for an extraordinary meeting on 21 February. Crimean Tatar Mejlis chairman Mustafa Dzhemilev said that he suspected that the meeting was arranged to call for Russian military intervention in Crimea.[79] In response to this, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said that it would "use severe measures to prevent any action taken against diminishing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine".[nb 1] The party with the largest number of seats in the Crimean parliament (80 of 100), the Party of Regions of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, did not discuss Crimean secession, and were supportive of an agreement between President Yanukovych and Euromaidan activists to end the unrest that was struck on the same day in Kiev.[81][82]

On 22–23 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin convened an all-night meeting with security services chiefs to discuss extrication of the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and at the end of that meeting Putin had remarked that "we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia."[34] On 23 February pro-Russian demonstrations were held in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Crimean prime minister Anatolii Mohyliov said that his government recognised the new provisional government in Kiev, and that the Crimean autonomous government would carry out all laws passed by the Ukrainian parliament.[83] In Simferopol, a pro-Euromaidan rally of between 5,000–15,000 was held in support of the new government, and demanding the resignation of the Crimean parliament; attendees waved Ukrainian, Tatar, and European Union flags.[84] Meanwhile, in Sevastopol, thousands protested against the new Ukrainian government, voted to establish a parallel administration, and created civil defence squads with the support of the Russian Night Wolves motorcycle club. Protesters waved Russian flags, chanted "Putin is our president!", and said they would refuse to further pay taxes to the Ukrainian state.[85][86] Russian military convoys were also alleged to be seen in the area.[86] In Kerch, pro-Russian protesters attempted to remove the Ukrainian flag from atop city hall and replace it with the flag of Russia. Over 200 attended, waving Russian, orange-and-black St. George, and the Russian Unity party flags. Mayor Oleh Osadchy attempted to disperse the crowd and police eventually arrived to defend the flag. The mayor said "This is the territory of Ukraine, Crimea. Here's a flag of Crimea", but was accused of treason and a fight ensued over the flagpole.[87] On 24 February, more rallied outside the Sevastopol city state administration.[88] Pro-Russian demonstrators accompanied by neo-Cossacks demanded the election of a Russian citizen as mayor and hoisted Russian flags around the city administration; they also handed out leaflets to sign up for a self-defence militia, warning that the "Blue-Brown Europlague is knocking."[89]

On 25 February, several hundred pro-Russian protesters blocked the Crimean parliament demanding a referendum on Crimea's independence.[90] On the same day, Sevastopol illegally elected Alexei Chaly, a Russian citizen, as mayor. Under the law of Ukraine, it was not possible for Sevastopol to elect a mayor, as the Chairman of the Sevastopol City State Administration, appointed by the President of Ukraine, functions as its mayor.[91] A thousand protesters present chanted "A Russian mayor for a Russian city." Crowds gathered again outside Sevastopol's city hall on Tuesday as rumours spread that security forces could arrest Chaly, but police chief Alexander Goncharov said that his officers would refuse to carry out "criminal orders" issued by Kiev. Viktor Neganov, a Sevastopol-based adviser to the Internal Affairs Minister, condemned the events in the city as a coup. "Chaly represents the interests of the Kremlin which likely gave its tacit approval," he said. Sevastopol City State Administration chairman Vladimir Yatsuba was booed and heckled on 23 February, when he told a pro-Russian rally that Crimea was part of Ukraine. He resigned the next day.[92] In Simferopol, the Regional State Administration building was blockaded with hundreds of protesters, including neo-Cossacks, demanding a referendum of separation; the rally was organized by the Crimean Front.[93]

On 26 February, thousands clashed during opposing rallies in Simferopol.[94] Near the Supreme Council of Crimea building 4,000 and 5,000 Crimean Tatars and supporters of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement faced 600-700 supporters of pro-Russian organizations and the Russian Unity Party.[95] Supreme Council Chairman Vladimir Konstantinov said that the Crimean parliament would not consider separation from Ukraine, and that earlier reports that parliament would hold a debate on the matter were provocations.[96] Tatars created self-defence groups, encouraged collaboration with Russians, Ukrainians, and people of other nationalities, and called for the protection of churches, mosques, synagogues, and other important sites.[97] By nightfall the Crimean Tatars had left; several hundred Russian Unity supporters rallied on.[98] The new Ukrainian government's acting Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov tasked Crimean law enforcement agencies not to provoke conflicts and to do whatever necessary to prevent clashes with pro-Russian forces; and he added "I think, that way – through a dialogue – we shall achieve much more than with standoffs".[99] New Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko requested that the United Nations provide around-the-clock monitoring of the security situation in Crimea.[100] Russian troops took control of the main route to Sevastopol on orders from Russian president Vladimir Putin. A military checkpoint, with a Russian flag and Russian military vehicles, was set up on the main highway between the city and Simferopol.[101]

On 27 February, Russian special forces [102] seized the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea and the building of the Council of Ministers in Simferopol.[103][104] Russian flags were raised over these buildings,[105] and barricades were erected outside them.[106] Whilst the "little green men" were occupying the Crimean parliament building, the parliament held an emergency session.[107][108] It voted to terminate the Crimean government, and replace Prime Minister Anatolii Mohyliov with Sergey Aksyonov.[109] Aksyonov belonged to the Russian Unity party, which received 4% of the vote in the last election.[108] According to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Prime Minister of Crimea is appointed by the Supreme Council of Crimea in consultation with the President of Ukraine.[110][111] Both Aksyonov and speaker Vladimir Konstantinov stated that they viewed Viktor Yanukovych as the de jure president of Ukraine, through whom they were able to ask Russia for assistance.[112]

The parliament also voted to hold a referendum on greater autonomy on 25 May. The troops had cut all of the building's communications, and took MPs' phones as they entered.[107][108] No independent journalists were allowed inside the building while the votes were taking place.[108] Some MPs said they were being threatened and that votes were cast for them and other MPs, even though they were not in the chamber.[108] Interfax-Ukraine reported "it is impossible to find out whether all the 64 members of the 100-member legislature who were registered as present at when the two decisions were voted on or whether someone else used the plastic voting cards of some of them" because due to the armed occupation of parliament it was unclear how many MPs were present.[113] The head of parliament's information and analysis department, Olha Sulnikova, had phoned from inside the parliamentary building to journalists and had told them 61 of the registered 64 deputies had voted for the referendum resolution and 55 for the resolution to dismiss the government.[113] Donetsk People's Republic separatist Igor Girkin said in January 2015 that Crimean members of parliament were held at gunpoint, and were forced to support the annexation.[114] These actions were immediately declared illegal by the Ukrainian interim government.[115]

On the same day, more troops in unmarked uniforms, assisted this time by what appeared to be local Berkut riot police (as well as Russian troops from the 31st Separate Airborne Assault Brigade dressed in Berkut uniforms),[116] established security checkpoints on the Isthmus of Perekop and the Chonhar Peninsula, which separate Crimea from the Ukrainian mainland.[106][117][118][119][120] Within hours, Ukraine had effectively been cut off from Crimea.

On 1 March 2014, Aksyonov declared Crimea's new de facto authorities would exercise control of all Ukrainian military installations on the peninsula. He also asked Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been Yanukovych's primary international backer and guarantor, for "assistance in ensuring peace and public order" in Crimea.[121] Putin promptly received authorisation from the Federation Council of Russia for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine "until normalization of a socio-political environment in the country".[122][123] Putin's swift manoeuvre prompted protests of intelligentsia and demonstrations in Moscow against a Russian military campaign in Crimea. By 2 March, Russian troops moving from the country's naval base in Sevastopol and reinforced by troops, armour, and helicopters from mainland Russia exercised complete control over the Crimean Peninsula.[124][125][126] Russian troops operated in Crimea without insignia. Despite numerous media reports and statements by the Ukrainian and foreign governments describing the unmarked troops as Russian soldiers, government officials concealed the identity of their forces, claiming they were local "self-defence" units over whom they had no authority.[127] As late as 17 April, Russian foreign minister Lavrov said that there were no spare armed forces in the territory of Crimea.[128]

Russian officials eventually admitted to their troops' presence. On 17 April 2014, Putin acknowledged the Russian military backed Crimean separatist militias, stating that Russia's intervention was necessary "to ensure proper conditions for the people of Crimea to be able to freely express their will".[32] Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu said the country's military actions in Crimea were undertaken by forces of the Black Sea Fleet and were justified by "threat to lives of Crimean civilians" and danger of "takeover of Russian military infrastructure by extremists".[129] Ukraine complained that by increasing its troop presence in Crimea, Russia violated the agreement under which it headquartered its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol[130] and violated the country's sovereignty.[131] The United States and United Kingdom also accused Russia of breaking the terms of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, by which Russia, the US, and the UK had reaffirmed their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.[132] The Russian government said the Budapest Memorandum did not apply due to "complicated internal processes" in Crimea.[133][134] In March 2015 retired Russian Admiral Igor Kasatonov stated that according to his information the Russian troop deployment in Crimea included six helicopter landings and three landings of IL-76 with 500 people.[135]

Legal obstacles to Crimea annexation

The Russian–Ukrainian Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet[lower-alpha 1] signed in 1997 and prolonged in 2010, determined the status of the military bases and vessels in Crimea prior to the crisis. Russia was allowed to maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems (with a calibre smaller than 100 mm), 132 armoured vehicles, and 22 military planes, on military base in Sevastopol and related infrastructure on the Crimean Peninsula. The Russian Black Sea fleet had basing rights in Crimea until 2042. Usage of navigation stations and troop movements were improperly covered by the treaty and were violated many times as well as related court decisions. February troop movements were in "complete disregard" of the treaty.[137]

Both Russia and Ukraine are signatories to the Charter of the United Nations. The ratification of said charter has several ramifications in terms of international law, particularly those that cover the subjects of declarations of independence, sovereignty, self-determination, acts of aggression, and humanitarian emergencies. Vladimir Putin said that Russian troops in the Crimean peninsula were aimed "to ensure proper conditions for the people of Crimea to be able to freely express their will",[138] whilst Ukraine and other nations argue that such intervention is a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.[131]

Russia, United States, United Kingdom and Ukraine also signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, by which all these countries reaffirmed their obligation to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine (including Crimea) and to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.[139]

"Little green men" and lorries after the seizure of Perevalne military base, 9 March 2014

According to the Constitution of Russia, the admission of new federal subjects is governed by federal constitutional law (art. 65.2).[140] Such a law was adopted in 2001, and it postulates that admission of a foreign state or its part into Russia shall be based on a mutual accord between the Russian Federation and the relevant state and shall take place pursuant to an international treaty between the two countries; moreover, it must be initiated by the state in question, not by its subdivision or by Russia.[141]

On 28 February 2014, Russian MP Sergey Mironov, along with other members of the Duma, introduced a bill to alter Russia's procedure for adding federal subjects. According to the bill, accession could be initiated by a subdivision of a country, provided that there is "absence of efficient sovereign state government in foreign state"; the request could be made either by subdivision bodies on their own or on the basis of a referendum held in the subdivision in accordance with corresponding national legislation.[142]

On 11 March 2014, both the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council adopted a declaration of independence, which stated their intent to declare independence and request full accession to Russia should the pro-Russian option receive the most votes during the scheduled status referendum. The declaration directly referred to the Kosovo independence precedent, by which the Albanian-populated Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija declared independence from Russia's ally Serbia as the Republic of Kosovo in 2008—a unilateral action Russia staunchly opposed. Many analysts saw the Crimean declaration as an overt effort to pave the way for Crimea's annexation by Russia.[143]

Crimean authorities' stated plans to declare independence from Ukraine made the Mironov bill unnecessary. On 20 March 2014, two days after the treaty of accession was signed, the bill was withdrawn by its initiators.[144]

At its meeting on 21–22 March, the Venice Commission stated that the Mironov bill violated "in particular, the principles of territorial integrity, national sovereignty, non-intervention in the internal affairs of another state and pacta sunt servanda" and was therefore incompatible with international law.[145]

Crimean status referendum

On 27 February, following the takeover of its building by Russian special forces, the Supreme Council of Crimea voted to hold a referendum on 25 May, with the initial question as to whether Crimea should upgrade its autonomy within Ukraine.[146] The referendum date was later moved from 25 May to 30 March.[147] A Ukrainian court declared the referendum to be illegal.[148]

On 4 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was not considering annexing Crimea. He said of the peninsula that "only citizens themselves, in conditions of free expression of will and their security can determine their future".[149] Putin later acknowledged that he had ordered "work to bring Crimea back into Russia" as early as February.[150] He also acknowledged that in early March there were "secret opinion polls" held in Crimea, which, according to him, reported overwhelming popular support for Crimea's incorporation into Russia.[151]

On 6 March, the Supreme Council moved the referendum date to 16 March and changed its scope to ask a new question: whether Crimea should accede to Russia or restore the 1992 constitution within Ukraine, which the Ukrainian government had previously invalidated. This referendum, unlike one announced earlier, contained no option to maintain the status quo of governance under the 1998 constitution.[152] Ukraine's then-acting President, Oleksander Turchinov, stated that "The authorities in Crimea are totally illegitimate, both the parliament and the government. They are forced to work under the barrel of a gun and all their decisions are dictated by fear and are illegal."[153]

On 14 March, the Crimean status referendum was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine,[154] and a day later, the Verkhovna Rada formally dissolved the Crimean parliament.[38]

The referendum was held despite the opposition from the Ukrainian government. Official results reported about 95% of participating voters in Crimea were in favour of Russian annexation of Crimea.[155] The results of referendum were questioned;[156] another report by Evgeny Bobrov, a member of the Russian President's Human Rights Council, suggested the official results were inflated and only 15% to 30% of Crimeans eligible to vote actually voted for the Russian option.[37][157]

The means by which the referendum was conducted were widely criticised by foreign governments and in the Ukrainian and international press, with reports that anyone holding a Russian passport regardless of residency in Crimea was allowed to vote.[158] After the OSCE refused to send observers Russia invited a group of observers from various European far-right political parties aligned with Putin, who stated the referendum was conducted in a free and fair manner.[159][160]

Breakaway republic

On 17 March, following the official announcement of the referendum results, the Supreme Council of Crimea declared the formal independence of the Republic of Crimea, comprising the territories of both the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which was granted special status within the breakaway republic.[161] The Crimean parliament declared the "partial repeal" of Ukrainian laws and began nationalising private and Ukrainian state property located on the Crimean Peninsula, including Ukrainian ports[162] and property of Chornomornaftogaz.[163] Parliament also formally requested that the Russian government admit the breakaway republic into Russia.[164] On same day, the de facto Supreme Council renamed itself the Crimean State Council,[165] declared the Russian ruble an official currency alongside the hryvnia,[166] and announced that Crimea would switch to Moscow Time (UTC+4) on 30 March.[167]

Putin officially recognised the Republic of Crimea 'as a sovereign and independent state' by decree[168] and approved the admission of Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects of Russia.[169]

Accession treaty

Signing of treaty of accession in Moscow, 18 March 2014
Medal "For return of Crimea" (20 February 2014 – 18 March 2014) by the Ministry of Defense of Russia

The Treaty on Accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia was signed between representatives of the Republic of Crimea (including Sevastopol, with which the rest of Crimea briefly unified) and the Russian Federation on 18 March 2014 to lay out terms for the immediate admission of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects of Russia and part of the Russian Federation.[170][171] It was ratified by the Federal Assembly by 21 March.[172]

During a controversial incident in Simferopol on 18 March, some Ukrainian sources said that armed gunmen that were reported to be Russian special forces allegedly stormed the base. This was contested by Russian authorities, who subsequently arrested an alleged Ukrainian sniper in connection with the killings.[173][174]

The two casualties had a joint funeral attended by both the Crimean and Ukrainian authorities, and both soldiers were mourned together.[175] The incident is now under investigation by both the Crimean authorities and the Ukrainian military.[176][177]

On 19 March, President Putin submitted a treaty on Crimea's annexation by Russia and a constitutional amendment to set up two new federal subjects of the Russian Federation to the State Duma.[178] The Russian Constitutional Court found that treaty is in compliance with the Constitution of Russia. The court sat in an emergency session following a formal request by President Vladimir Putin to assess the constitutionality of the treaty.[179][180]

After the Russian Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of the treaty, the State Duma ratified it on 20 March.[181][182] The Duma also approved the draft federal constitutional law admitting Crimea and Sevastopol and establishing them as federal subjects.[183][184] A Just Russia's Ilya Ponomarev was the only State Duma member to vote against the measures. A day later, the treaty itself and the required amendment to article 65 of the Russian Constitution (which lists the federal subjects of Russia) were ratified by the Federation Council[185] and almost immediately signed into law by Putin.[186] Crimea's admission to the Russian Federation was considered retroactive to 18 March, when Putin and Crimean leaders signed the draft treaty.[187]

Subsequent events

On 24 March, the Ukrainian government ordered the full withdrawal of all of its armed forces from Crimea.[188] In addition, the Ministry of Defence announced that approximately 50% of the Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea had defected to the Russian military.[189][190][191][192]

On 27 March, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution, which declared the Crimean referendum and subsequent status change invalid, by a vote of 100 to 11, with 58 abstentions and 24 absent.[193][194]

Crimea and Sevastopol switched to Moscow Time at the end of March.[195][196]

On 2 April, Russia formally denounced the 2010 Kharkiv Pact and Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet.[197] Putin cited "the accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia" and resulting "practical end of renting relationships" as his reason for the denunciation.[198] On the same day, he signed a decree formally rehabilitating the Crimean Tatars, who were ousted from their lands in 1944, and the Armenian, German, Greek, and Bulgarian minority communities in the region that Stalin also ordered removed in the 1940s.

On 11 April, the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and City Charter of Sevastopol were adopted,[199] in addition the new federal subjects were enumerated in a newly published revision of the Russian Constitution.[200]

Federal Law on Ratifying the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on Admitting to the Russian Federation the Republic of Crimea and Establishing within the Russian Federation New Constituent Entities.
Federal Constitutional Law on Admitting to the Russian Federation the Republic of Crimea and Establishing within the Russian Federation the New Constituent Entities of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Federal Importance Sevastopol.

On 14 April, Vladimir Putin announced that he would open a ruble-only account with Bank Rossiya and would make it the primary bank in the newly annexed Crimea as well as giving the right to service payments on Russia's $36 billion wholesale electricity market – which gave the bank $112 million annually from commission charges alone.[201]

In July 2015, Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, declared that Crimea had been fully integrated into Russia.[202]

2016 Crimea border clashes

On 8 August 2016, Ukraine reported that Russia had increased its military presence along the demarcation line.[203] In response to this military buildup Ukraine also deployed more troops and resources closer to the border with Crimea.[204] The Pentagon has downplayed a Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling Russian troops along the border a regular military exercise.[205] On 10 August, Russia claimed two servicemen were killed in clashes with Ukrainian commandos, and that Ukrainian servicemen had been captured with a total of 40 kg of explosives in their possession.[206] Ukraine denied that the incident took place.[207] Russian accounts claimed that Russian FSB detained "Ukrainian saboteurs" and "terrorists" near Armyansk. The ensuing gunfight left one FSB officer and a suspect dead. A number of individuals were detained, including Yevhen Panov, who is described by Russian sources as a Ukrainian military intelligence officer and leader of the sabotage group. The group was allegedly planning terror attacks on important infrastructure in Armyansk, Crimea. Ukrainian media reported that Panov was a military volunteer fighting in the east of the country, however he has more recently been associated with a charitable organization. Russia also claimed that the alleged border infiltration was accompanied by "heavy fire" from Ukrainian territory, resulting in the death of a Russian soldier.[208][209] Ukrainian government called the Russian accusations "cynical" and "senseless" and argued that since Crimea was Ukrainian territory, it was Russia which "has been generously financing and actively supporting terrorism on Ukrainian territory".[210]

Transition and aftermath

Economic implications

The number of tourists visiting Crimea in the 2014 season was lower than in the previous years due to a combination of Western sanctions, ethical objections by Ukrainians, and the difficulty of getting there for Russians.[211][212] The Russian government attempted to stimulate the flow of tourists by subsidizing holidays in the peninsula for children and state workers from all Russia[213][214] which worked mostly for state-owned hotels. In 2015 overall 3 million tourists visited Crimea according to official data, while before annexation it was around 5.5 million on average. The shortage is attributed mostly to stopped flow of tourists from Ukraine. Hotels and restaurants are also experiencing problems with finding enough seasonal workers, who were arriving from Ukraine mostly in the preceding years. Tourists visiting state-owned hotels are complaining mostly about low standard of rooms and facilities, some of them unrepaired from Soviet times.[215]

According to the German newspaper Die Welt, the annexation of Crimea is economically disadvantageous for the Russian Federation. Russia will have to spend billions of euros a year to pay salaries and pensions. Moreover, Russia will have to undertake costly projects to connect Crimea to the Russian water supply and power system because Crimea has no land connection to Russia and at present gets water, gas and electricity from mainland Ukraine. This will require building a bridge and a pipeline across the Kerch Strait. Also, Novinite claims that a Ukrainian expert told Die Welt that Crimea "will not be able to attract tourists".[216]

The first Deputy to Minister of Finance of Russian Federation Tatyana Nesterenko said in her interview to Forbes Woman that decision to annexe Crimea was made by Russian President Vladimir Putin exclusively without consulting Russia's Finance Ministry.[217]

The Russian business newspaper Kommersant expresses an opinion that Russia will not acquire anything economically from "accessing" Crimea, which is not very developed industrially, having just a few big factories, and whose yearly gross product is only $4 billion. The newspaper also says that everything from Russia will have to be delivered by sea, higher costs of transportation will result in higher prices for everything, and to avoid a decline in living standards Russia will have to subsidise Crimean people for a few months. In total, Kommersant estimates the costs of integrating Crimea into Russia in $30 billion over the next decade, i.e. $3 billion per year.[218]

On the other hand, western oil experts estimate that Russia's seizing of Crimea, and the associated control of an area of Black Sea more than three times its land area gives it access to oil and gas reserves potentially worth trillions of dollars. It also deprives Ukraine of its chances of energy independence. Most immediately however, analysts say, Moscow's acquisition may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. It would also allow Russia to avoid building in Turkish territorial waters, which was necessary in the original route to avoid Ukrainian territory.[219][220]

Russian/Chechen businessman Ruslan Baisarov announced he is ready to invest 12 billion rubles into the construction of a modern sea resort in Crimea, which is expected to create about 1,300 jobs. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of Chechnya, said that other Chechen businessmen are planning to invest into Crimea as well.[221]

The Russian Federal Service for Communications (Roskomnadzor) warned about a transition period as Russian operators have to change the numbering capacity and subscribers. Country code will be replaced from the Ukrainian +380 to Russian +7. Codes in Crimea start with 65, but in the area of "7" the 6 is given to Kazakhstan which shares former Soviet Union +7 with Russia, so city codes have to change. The regulator assigned 869 dialling code to Sevastopol and the rest of the peninsula received a 365 code.[222] At the time of the unification with Russia, telephone operators and Internet service providers in Crimea and Sevastopol are connected to the outside world through the territory of Ukraine.[223] Minister of Communications of Russia, Nikolai Nikiforov announced on his Twitter account that postal codes in Crimea will now have six-figures: to the existing five-digit number the number two will be added at the beginning. For example, the Simferopol postal code 95000 will become 295000.[224]

Regarding Crimea's borders, the head of Russian Federal Agency for the Development of the State Border Facilities (Rosgranitsa) Konstantin Busygin, who was speaking at a meeting led by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea said the Russian state border in the north of Crimea which, according to his claims, now forms part of the Russian-Ukrainian border, will be fully equipped with the necessary facilities.[225] In the area that now forms the border between Crimea and Ukraine mining the salt lake inlets from the sea that constitute the natural borders, and in the spit of land left over stretches of no-man's-land with wire on either side was created.[226] On early June that year Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a Government resolution №961[227] dated 5 June 2014 establishing air, sea, road and railway checkpoints. The adopted decisions create a legal basis for the functioning of a checkpoint system at the Russian state border in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol.[228]

In the year following the annexation, armed men seized various Crimean businesses, including banks, hotels, shipyards, farms, gas stations, a bakery, a dairy, and Yalta Film Studio.[229][230][231] Russian media have noted this trend as "returning to the 90's", which is perceived as a period of anarchy and rule of gangs in Russia.[232]

In 2015 the Investigative Committee of Russia announced about a number of theft and corruption cases in infrastructure projects in Crimea, for example spending that exceeded the actual accounted costs three times. A number of Russian officials were also arrested for corruption, including head of federal tax inspection.[233][234]

(According to February 2016 official Ukrainian figures) after Russia's annexation 10% of Security Service of Ukraine personnel left Crimea; accompanied by 6.000 of the pre-annexation 20.300 people strong Ukrainian army.[235]

Human rights situation

In March 2014, Human Rights Watch reported that pro-Ukrainian activists and journalists had been attacked, abducted, and tortured.[236] Some Crimeans were simply "disappeared" with no explanation.[237]

On 9 May 2014 the new "anti-extremist" amendment to the Criminal Code of Russia, passed in December 2013, came into force. Article 280.1 designated incitement of violation of territorial integrity of the Russian Federation[238] (incl. calls for secession of Crimea from Russia[239]) as a criminal offense in Russia, punishable by a fine of 300 thousand roubles or imprisonment up to 3 years. If such statements are made in public media or the internet, the punishment could be obligatory works up to 480 hours or imprisonment up to five years.[238]

Following the annexation of Crimea, according to report released on the Russian government run President of Russia's Council on Civil Society and Human Rights website, Tatars who were opposed to Russian rule have been persecuted, Russian law restricting freedom of speech has been imposed, and the new pro-Russian authorities "liquidated" the Kiev Patriarchate Orthodox church on the peninsula.[37] The Crimean Tatar television station was also shut down by the Russian authorities.[237]

Map denoting the subdivisions of Ukraine and the percentage of people that indicated Russian as their native language in the latest local census. Sevastopol identifies itself as the highest at 90.6% followed immediately by Crimea at 77.0%.

After the annexation, on 16 May the new Russian authorities of Crimea issued a ban on the annual commemorations of the anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin in 1944, citing "possibility of provocation by extremists" as a reason.[240] Previously, when Crimea was controlled by Ukraine, these commemorations had taken place every year. The pro-Russian Crimean authorities also banned Mustafa Dzhemilev, a human rights activist, Soviet dissident, member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars from entering Crimea.[241] Additionally, Mejlis reported, that officers of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) raided Tatar homes in the same week, on the pretense of "suspicion of terrorist activity".[242] The Tatar community eventually did hold commemorative rallies in defiance of the ban.[241][242] In response Russian authorities flew helicopters over the rallies in an attempt to disrupt them.[243]

In May 2015, a local activist, Alexander Kostenko, was sentenced to four years in a penal colony. His lawyer, Dmitry Sotnikov, said that the case was fabricated and that his client had been beaten and starved. Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya announced that they were judging "not just [Kostenko], but the very idea of fascism and nazism, which are trying to raise their head once again." Sotnikov responded that "There are fabricated cases in Russia, but rarely such humiliation and physical harm. A living person is being tortured for a political idea, to be able to boast winning over fascism."[244] In June 2015, Razom released a report compiling human rights abuses in Crimea.[245][246] In its 2016 annual report, the Council of Europe made no mention of human rights abuses in Crimea because Russia had not allowed its monitors to enter.[247]

Crimean public opinion

A joint survey by American government agency Broadcasting Board of Governors and polling firm Gallup was taken during April 2014.[248] It polled 500 residents of Crimea. The survey found that 82.8% of those polled believed that the results of the Crimean status referendum reflected the views of most Crimeans, whereas 6.7% said that it did not. 73.9% of those polled said that they thought that the annexation would have a positive impact on their lives, whereas 5.5% said that it would not. 13.6% said that they did not know.[248]

A comprehensive poll released on 8 May 2014 by the Pew Research Centre surveyed Crimean opinions on the annexation.[249] Despite international criticism of 16 March referendum on Crimean status, 91% of those Crimeans polled thought that the vote was free and fair, and 88% said that the Ukrainian government should recognise the results.[249]

Ukrainian response

Immediately after the treaty of accession was signed in March, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Provisional Principal of Russia in Ukraine to present note verbale of protest against Russia's recognition of the Republic of Crimea and its subsequent annexation.[250] Two days later, the Verkhovna Rada condemned the treaty[251] and called Russia's actions "a gross violation of international law". The Rada called on the international community to avoid recognition of the "so-called Republic of Crimea" or the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia as new federal subjects.

On 15 April 2014, the Verkhovna Rada declared the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to be under "provisional occupation" by the Russian military[252] and imposed travel restrictions on Ukrainians visiting Crimea.[253] The territories were also deemed "inalienable parts of Ukraine" subject to Ukrainian law. Among other things, the special law approved by the Rada restricted foreign citizens' movements to and from the Crimean Peninsula and forbade certain types of entrepreneurship.[254] The law also forbade activity of government bodies formed in violation of Ukrainian law and designated their acts as null and void.[255] The law had little to no actual effect in Crimea itself due to the mutual non-recognition between Kiev and Simferopol.

Ukrainian authorities greatly reduced the volume of water flowing into Crimea via the North Crimean Canal due to huge debt for water supplied in previous year, threatening the viability of the peninsula's agricultural crops, which are heavily dependent on irrigation.[256]

The Ukrainian National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting has instructed all cable operators on 11 March to stop transmitting a number of Russian channels, including the international versions of the main state-controlled stations, Rossiya-1, Channel One and NTV, as well as news channel Rossiya-cable operators on.[257] They said that this is because of Russian media showing them in a negative light.

In March 2014, activists began organising flash mobs in supermarkets to urge customers not to buy Russian goods and to boycott Russian gas stations, banks, and concerts. In April 2014, some cinemas in Kiev, Lviv, and Odessa began shunning Russian films.[258]

On 2 December 2014, the Ministry of Information Policy was created with one of its goals being, according to first Minister of Information, Yuriy Stets, to counteract "Russian information aggression".[259]

In December 2014, Ukraine halted all train and bus services to Crimea.[260]

On 16 September 2015 the Ukrainian parliament voted for the law that sets 20 February 2014 as the official date of the Russian temporary occupation of Crimean peninsula.[261][262] On 7 October 2015 the President of Ukraine signed the law into force.[263]

Russian response

Request ("ultimatum") by Council of Ministers of Crimea to Ukrainian 55th Anti-Aircraft Artillery regiment in Yevpatoria to lay down arms under control of Russian Black Sea Fleet for the period of Crimean referendum

In a poll published on 24 February by the state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Center, only 15% of those Russians polled said 'yes' to the question: "Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?"[264]

The State Duma Committee on Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, headed by Leonid Slutsky, visited Simferopol on 25 February 2014 and said: "If the parliament of the Crimean autonomy or its residents express the wish to join the Russian Federation, Russia will be prepared to consider this sort of application. We will be examining the situation and doing so fast."[265] They also stated that in the event of a referendum for Crimea region joining Russian Federation they would consider its results "very fast".[266] Later Slutsky announced that he was misunderstood by Crimean press and no decision regarding simplifying the process of acquiring Russian citizenship for people in Crimea has been made yet.[267] And added that if "fellow Russian citizens are in jeopardy you understand that we do not stay away".[268] On 25 February, in a meeting with Crimean politicians he stated that Viktor Yanukovych was still the legitimate president of Ukraine.[269] That same day in the Russian Duma, they announced they were determining measures so that Russians in Ukraine who "did not want to break from the Russian World" could acquire Russian citizenship.[270]

On 26 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian Armed Forces to be "put on alert in the Western Military District as well as units stationed with the 2nd Army Central Military District Command involved in aerospace defence, airborne troops and long-range military transport." Despite media speculation it was for in reaction to the events in Ukraine Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said it was in separate consideration from the unrest in Ukraine.[271] On 27 February 2014, the Russian government dismissed accusations about violation by the Russian side of the basic agreements in regards of the Black Sea Fleet: "All movements of armored vehicles are undertaken in full compliance with the basic agreements and did not require any approvals".[272][273][274]

On 27 February, the Russian governing agencies presented the new law project on granting citizenship.[275]

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the West and particularly NATO to "abandon the provocative statements and respect the neutral status of Ukraine".[276] In its statement the ministry claims that agreement on settlement of the crisis which was signed on 21 February and was witnessed by foreign ministries from Germany, Poland and France has to this date, not been implemented[276] (Vladimir Lukin from Russia had not signed it[277]).

On 28 February, according to ITAR-TASS, the Russian Ministry of Transport discontinued its further talks with Ukraine in regards to the Kerch Strait Bridge project.[278] However, on 3 March Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia, signed a decree creating a subsidiary of Russian Highways (Avtodor) to build a bridge at an unspecified location along the Kerch strait.[279][280]

At least 30,000 people at 15 March protests, named March of Peace, which took place in Moscow a day before the Crimean referendum.

On Russian social networks there is a movement to gather volunteers who served in the Russian army to go to Ukraine.[281]

On 28 February President Putin stated it was of "extreme importance of not allowing a further escalation of violence and the necessity of a rapid normalisation of the situation in Ukraine" in telephone calls with key EU leaders.[282] Already on 19 February the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to the Euromaidan revolution as the "Brown revolution".[283][284]

The Federation Council approved that Russia may introduce a limited contingent of Russian troops in Crimea for the security of the Black Sea Fleet and the Russians.[285]

In Moscow, on 2 March, an estimated 27,000 rallied in support of the Russian government's decision to intervene in Ukraine.[286] The rallies received considerable attention on Russian state TV and were officially sanctioned by the government.[286]

Meanwhile, on 1 March, five people who were picketing next to the Federation Council building against the invasion of Ukraine were arrested.[287] The next day about 200 people protested at the building of the Russian Ministry of Defence in Moscow against Russian military involvement.[288] About 500 people also gathered to protest on the Manezhnaya Square in Moscow and the same number of people on the Saint Isaac's Square in Saint Petersburg.[289] On 2 March, about eleven protesters demonstrated in Yekaterinburg against Russian involvement, with some wrapped in the Ukrainian flag.[290] Protests were also held in Chelyabinsk on the same day.[291] The opposition to the military intervention was also expressed by rock musician Andrey Makarevich, who wrote in particular: "You want war with Ukraine? It will not be the way it was with Abkhazia: the folks on the Maidan have been hardened and know what they are fighting for – for their country, their independence. […] We have to live with them. Still neighborly. And preferably in friendship. But it's up to them how they want to live".[292] The Professor of the Department of Philosophy at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Andrey Zubov was fired for his article in Vedomosti, criticising Russian military intervention.[293]

On 2 March, one Moscow resident protested against Russian intervention by holding "Stop the war" banner, but he was immediately harassed by passers-by and when the police was arresting him, a woman offered them fabricating a serious charge (beating up a child) against him; however, the proposal was rejected by the police.[294] Andrei Zubov, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, who compared Russian actions in Crimea to the Anschluss of Austria, was threatened. Akexander Chuyev, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Spravedlivaya Rossiya party, also objected to Russian intervention in Ukraine. Boris Akunin, popular Russian writer, predicted that Russia's moves would lead to political and economic isolation.[294]

Russian President Vladimir Putin (seated, middle) speaks to the press on 4 March 2014, denouncing the events in Kiev as an "unconstitutional coup", and insisting that Moscow has a right to protect Russians in Ukraine.[295]

President Putin's approval rating among the Russian public has increased by nearly 10% since the crisis began, up to 71.6%, the highest in three years, according to a poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research, released on 19 March.[296] Additionally, the same poll showed that more than 90% of Russians supported unification with the Crimean Republic.[296]

On 4 March, at press conference in Novo-Ogaryovo President Putin expressed his view on the situation that if a revolution took place in Ukraine, it is a new country with which Russia did not conclude any treaties.[297] He brought up an analogy with events of 1917 in Russia, when as a result of the revolution the Russian Empire fell apart and a new state was created.[297] However, he stated Ukraine would still have to honour its debts.

Around 100,000 people gathered in Crimean Sevastopol at Victory Day parade

Russian politicians have speculated that there are already 143,000 Ukrainian refugees in Russia.[298] The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuted those claims of refugees increase in Russia.[299] At a briefing on 4 March 2014, the director of department of information policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Yevhen Perebiynis said that Russia was misinforming its own citizens as well as the entire international community to justify its own actions in the Crimea.[300]

On 5 March, an anchor of the Russian-owned international news channel RT America, Abby Martin, in an interview with Piers Morgan, said she "did not agree" with how her employer RT was covering the Ukrainian crisis, but claims RT still supports her despite her differences of opinion.[301] Also on 5 March 2014, another RT America anchor, Liz Wahl, of the network's Washington, DC bureau, resigned on air, explaining that she could not be "part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin" and citing her Hungarian ancestry and the memory of the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Uprising as a factor in her decision.[302]

In early March, Igor Andreyev, a 75-year-old survivor of the Siege of Leningrad, attended an anti-war rally against the Russian intervention in Crimea and was holding a sign that read "Peace to the World". The riot police arrested him and a local pro-government lawyer then accused him of being a supporter of "fascism". The retiree, who lived on a 6,500-ruble monthly pension, was fined 10,000 rubles.[303]

Prominent dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky said that Crimea should stay within Ukraine with broader autonomy.[304]

Tatarstan, a republic within Russia populated by Volga Tatars, has sought to alleviate concerns about treatment of Tatars by Russia, as Tatarstan is a gas-rich and economically successful republic in Russia.[305] On 5 March, President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov signed an agreement on co-operation between Tatarstan and the Aksyonov government in Crimea that implied collaboration between ten government institutions as well as significant financial aid to Crimea from Tatarstan businesses.[305] On 11 March, Minnikhanov was in Crimea on his second visit and attended as a guest present in the Crimean parliament chamber during the vote on the declaration of sovereignty pending 16 March referendum.[305] The Tatarstan's Mufti Kamil Samigullin invited Crimean Tatars to study in madrasas in Kazan and declared support for their "brothers in faith and blood".[305] Mustafa Dzhemilev, a former leader of the Crimean Tatar Majlis believes that forces that are suspected to be Russian forces should leave the Crimean peninsula,[305] and has asked the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers into the region.[306]

On 13 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a comparison between Crimea and Kosovo in a phone call with US President Barack Obama.[307]

On 15 March, thousands of protesters (estimates varying from 3,000 by official sources up to 50,000 claimed by opposition) in Moscow marched against Russian involvement in Ukraine, many waving Ukrainian flags.[308] At the same time a pro government (and pro-referendum) rally, occurred across the street, counted thousands as well (officials claiming 27,000 with opposition claiming about 10,000).

In February 2015, the leading independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported[309] that it obtained documents, allegedly written by oligarch Konstantin Malofayev and others, which provided the Russian government with a strategy in the event of Viktor Yanukovych's removal from power and the break-up of Ukraine, which were considered likely. The documents outline plans for annexation of Crimea and the eastern portions of the country, closely describing the events that actually followed after Yanukovych's fall. The documents also describe plans for a public relations campaign which would seek to justify Russian actions.[310][311][312]

In June 2015 Mikhail Kasyanov stated that all Russian Duma decisions on Crimea annexation were illegal from the international point of view and the annexation was provoked by false accusations of discrimination of Russian nationals in Ukraine.[313]

International response

International reaction to the 2014 Crimean crisis according to official governmental statements.[lower-alpha 2]
  Statements only voicing concern or hope for peaceful resolution to the conflict
  Support for Ukrainian territorial integrity
  Condemnation of Russian actions
  Condemnation of Russian actions as a military intervention or invasion
  Support for Russian actions and/or condemnation of the Ukrainian interim government
  Recognition of Russian interests
  No official statements / No data available
Results of the United Nations General Assembly vote about the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
  In favour   Against   Abstentions   Absent   Non-members

There have been a range of international reactions to the annexation. The UN General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution 100 in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions in the 193-nation assembly that declared invalid Crimea's Moscow-backed referendum.[314] In a move supported by the Lithuanian President,[315] the United States government imposed sanctions against persons they deem to have violated or assisted in the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.[316] The European Union suspended talks with Russia on economic and visa-related matters, and is considering more stringent sanctions against Russia in the near future, including asset freezes.[317][318] while Japan announced sanctions which include suspension of talks relating to military, space, investment, and visa requirements.[319] The United Kingdom qualified the referendum vote in Crimea of being "farcical", "illegal" and "illegitimate".[320]

The EU Commission decided on 11 March to enter into a full free-trade agreement with Ukraine within the year.[321] On 12 March, the European Parliament rejected the upcoming referendum on independence in Crimea, which they saw as manipulated and contrary to international and Ukrainian law.[322] The G7 bloc of developed nations (the G8 minus Russia) made a joint statement condemning Russia and announced that they would suspend preparations for the planned G8 summit in Sochi in June.[323][324] NATO condemned Russia's military escalation in Crimea and stated that it was breach of international law[325] while the Council of Europe expressed its full support for the territorial integrity and national unity of Ukraine.[326] The Visegrád Group has issued a joint statement urging Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and for Ukraine to take into account its minority groups to not further break fragile relations. It has urged for Russia to respect Ukrainian and international law and in line with the provisions of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.[327]

China said "We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine". A spokesman restated China's belief of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations and urged dialogue.[328][329]

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon of India stated that Russia has legitimate interests in Crimea and called for "sustained diplomatic efforts" and "constructive dialogue" to resolve the crisis.[330] However, the National Security Advisor is not a part of the Cabinet of India and, as such, Menon's statement was not an official statement issued by the government of India.[331] However, India subsequently made it clear that it will not support any "unilateral measures" against Russian government. "India has never supported unilateral sanctions against any country. Therefore, we will also not support any unilateral measures by a country or a group of countries against Russia."[332] Both Syria and Venezuela openly support Russian military action. Syrian President Bashar al Assad said that he supports Putin's efforts to "restore security and stability in the friendly country of Ukraine", while Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro condemned Ukraine's "ultra-nationalist" coup.[333][334] Sri Lanka described Yanukovych's removal as unconstitutional and considered Russia's concerns in Crimea as justified.[335]

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called for change in EU energy policy as Germany's dependence on Russian gas poses risks for Europe.[336]

On 13 March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the Russian government it risks massive damage to Russia, economically and politically, if it refuses to change course on Ukraine,[336] though close economic links between Germany and Russia significantly reduce the scope for any sanctions.[337]

After Russia moved to formally incorporate Crimea, some worried whether it may do the same in other regions.[338] US deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken said that the Russian troops massed on the eastern Ukrainian border may be preparing to enter the country's eastern regions. Russian officials stated that Russian troops would not enter other areas.[338] US Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, warned that the same troops were in a position to take over the separatist Russian-speaking Moldovan province of Transnistria.[338]

On 9 April, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deprived Russia of voting rights.[339]

On 14 August, while visiting Crimea, Vladimir Putin ruled out pushing beyond Crimea. He undertook to do everything he could to end the conflict in Ukraine, saying Russia needed to build calmly and with dignity, not by confrontation and war which isolated it from the rest of the world.[340]

United Nations resolutions

UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution condemning the 2014 Crimean referendum.
  Voted in favour of the resolution
  Vetoed the resolution
UN General Assembly vote on the resolution condemning the 2014 Crimean referendum.
  In favour of considering the referendum illegal
  Against adopting the resolution
  Absent when the vote took place

Security Council resolution

On 15 March 2014, a US-sponsored resolution that went to a vote in the UN Security Council to reaffirm that council's commitment to Ukraine's "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity" was not approved. Though a total of 13 council members voted in favour of the resolution and China abstained, Russia vetoed the resolution.[341]

General Assembly resolution

On 27 March 2014, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution describing the referendum leading to annexation of Crimea by Russia as illegal.[342] The draft resolution, which was titled "Territorial integrity of Ukraine", was co-sponsored by Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and the US. It affirmed the council's commitment to the "sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders." The resolution tried to underscore that 16 March referendum held in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol has no validity and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol. The resolution got 100 votes in its favour, while 11 nations voted against and 58 countries abstained from the vote. The resolution was non-binding and the vote was largely symbolic.[343]


The vast majority of the international community has not recognised the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia. Most nations in North America, Central America, Europe, Oceania, and Africa, as well as Asia outside of the former Soviet republics, have openly rejected the referendum and the accession, and instead consider Crimea and Sevastopol to be administrative divisions of Ukraine. The remainder have largely remained neutral. The vote on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 (supporting the position that Crimea and Sevastopol remain part of Ukraine) was 100 to 11 in favour, with 58 states abstaining and a further 24 of the 193 member states not voting through being absent when the vote took place.

Afghanistan, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, and Nicaragua have recognised the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol as federal subjects.[344]

The position of Belarus is vague: it includes statements made by Alexander Lukashenko that "Ukraine should remain an integral, indivisible, non-aligned state" and "As for Crimea, I do not like it when the integrity and independence of a country are broken", on the one hand, and "Today Crimea is part of the Russian Federation. No matter whether you recognize it or not, the fact remains." and "Whether Crimea will be recognised as a region of the Russian Federation de-jure does not really matter", on the other hand.[345]

Three non-UN member states recognised the results of the referendum: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. A fourth, Transnistria, sent a request on 18 March 2014 to join the Russian Federation following the Crimean example and in compliance with the Admission Law provisions.[346][347][348] On 16 April 2014 Transnistria urged Russia and the United Nations to recognise its independence.[349] Putin is aware of Transnistria's recognition request, according to Dmitry Peskov.[350] The regional council of Italy's northern region Lombardy has adopted a non-binding resolution on recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. The document also calls on the central government to work out a plan to lift the sanctions from Moscow, local news agency Il Giorno reports.[351]


Sanctions were imposed to prevent Russian and Crimean officials and politicians travelling to Canada, the United States, and the European Union. They were the most wide-ranging used on Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.[352][353][354][355][356]

Japan announced milder sanctions than the US and EU. These include suspension of talks relating to military, space, investment, and visa requirements.[357]

In response to the sanctions introduced by the US and EU, the Russian Duma unanimously passed a resolution asking for all members of the Duma to be included on the sanctions list.[358] Head of the opposition A Just Russia party Sergei Mironov said he was proud of being included on the sanctions list, "It is with pride that I have found myself on the black list, this means they have noticed my stance on Crimea."[358] Russian companies started pulling billions of dollars out of Western banks to avoid any asset freeze.[359]

Three days after the lists were published, the Russian Foreign Ministry published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, which consisted of 10 names, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator John McCain, and two advisers to President Obama. The ministry said in the statement, "Treating our country in such way, as Washington could have already ascertained, is inappropriate and counterproductive," and reiterated that sanctions against Russia would have a boomerang effect.[360] Several of those sanctioned responded with pride at their inclusion on the list, including John Boehner,[361] John McCain,[361] Bob Menendez,[362] Dan Coats,[361] Mary Landrieu, and Harry Reid.[363]

On 24 March, Russia has imposed retaliatory sanctions on 13 Canadian officials including members of the Parliament of Canada,[364] banning them from entering Russia. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said the sanctions were "a badge of honour."[365] Former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler also said that he considered the sanctions a badge of honour, not a mark of exclusion.[364]

In March 2014, The Christian Science Monitor reported, "The good news is that so far, Russia has shown no inclination to use the NDN [ Northern Distribution Network, key supply line to Afghanistan that runs through Russia] as leverage in the wake of US retaliation for its troop movements in Crimea."[366]

Expanded Western sanctions in mid-March coursed through financial markets, hitting the business interests of some Russia's richest people.[367] The Americans centred on the heart of Moscow's leadership,[368] though the EU's initial list shied from targeting Putin's inner circle.[369] As ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's downgraded Russia's credit outlook,[370] Russian banks warned of a sanctions-induced recession,[371] the country braced for capital outflows for the first three months of 2014 to reach $70 billion,[372] more than the entirety of outflows for 2013,[373] and Russian government-bond issues plummeted by three-quarters compared with the same period the previous year.[374] Novatek, Russia's second-largest gas producer, saw $2.5bn in market value wiped out when its shares sank by nearly 10%, rendering Putin's close friend Gennady Timchenko, who has a 23% stake in the company, $575m poorer.[367] "I do hope that there is some serious diplomatic activity going on behind the scenes," said one Russian banker,[375] though others were more sanguine on the question of whether the sanctions would have any enduring effect,[370][376][377] and Russians, top and bottom, seemed defiant.[378] The official Russian response was mixed.[379]

Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Alexey Ulyukaev said what introduction of sectoral sanctions will lead to a serious decline of the Russian economy: economic growth of Russia will become seriously negative, the growth of volumes of investment will be even more negative, inflation will be on the rise, and government revenues and reserves will go down.[380]

As well as differences between the United States and Europe as a whole as to how to respond to the Russian-backed incursion, those same differences have played out among Eastern European countries.[381]

A number of Russian citizens reported that they have been denied European visas after they visited Crimea after annexation.[382] A Russian consumer protection watchdog OZPP published a warning for Russian tourists about this risk, explaining that from the international law point of view Crimea is an occupied territory, after which Roskomnadzor blocked the OZPP website "for threatenting territorial integrity of Russian federation".[383]


Economic impact

While initially (right after the annexation), salaries rose, especially those of government workers, this was soon offset by the increase in prices caused by the depreciation of the ruble. Subsequently, after Russian authority became established, wages were cut back again by 30% to 70%. Tourism, previously Crimea's main industry, suffered in particular; it was down by 50% from 2014.[396][397] Crimean agricultural yields were also significantly impacted by the annexation. Ukraine cut off supplies of water through the North Crimean Canal, causing the 2014 rice crop to fail, and greatly damaging the maize and soybean crops.[398]

See also


  1. Dilanian (2014) "CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday that a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows up to 25,000 Russia troops in the vital Crimea region, so Russia may not consider its recent troop movements to be an invasion, U.S. officials said."[136]
  2. If an official position can be sorted in more than one category, the "strongest" position was marked (from the "call for a peaceful resolution" to "interpretation as a military intervention" consecutively). For the sources see the image description.
  1. It also noted that "certain politicians, local government officials, leaders of civil society organizations, and radically inclined individuals have attempted to create grounds for escalating the civil conflict, and have spread autonomous and separatist attitudes among the people, which could lead to the demise of our as a united nation and loss of its national sovereignty." In addition, the statement said that certain lawmakers of every level have begun separatist negotiations with representatives of foreign nations. "Open consultations are being held on the possible division of the country into separate parts in violation of the Ukrainian constitution," read the statement. "This could lead to an escalation of conflict between different sectors of society, inciting ethnic or religious hatred and military conflict."[80]


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Further reading

External links

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