October 30, 2020

Six years ago, on March 18, 2014, Russia completed the annexation of Crimea by organizing a fake vote on the peninsula. As the anniversary of the Crimea referendum at gun point approached, the United States (M. Pompeo), the European Union (J. Borrell) and Turkey (M. Cavusoglu) declared they keep in mind the annexation of the peninsula and do not recognize its affiliation by the Russian Federation.

For professional diplomats such declarations are the usual thing. For example, on September 2, 1990, the separatists from the Transnistrian region proclaimed independence from Moldova relying on the Russian military contingent. It can be anticipated that close to this date representatives of different states will make numerous statements about the counterproductiveness of the 30-year-old “frozen conflict” between Chisinau and Tiraspol (in fact, Moscow). In this regard, the question arises, why should the ordinary citizens of the European continent, not the politicians only, keep in mind the fact of Crimea occupation!?

They need to remember, and that is why…

1. Russia claims that Crimea and Sevastopol have become part of the Russian Federation independently and voluntarily. In fact, by transferring armed formations to the peninsula, and hiding behind the elderly, women and children Russia committed the act of military aggression, which had been prepared, as a number of signs show, for several years. By doing so, Russia violated numerous bilateral treaties, though it never announced a withdrawal from them or their denunciation. It also violated international law (the inviolability of borders established after the WWII and the sovereignty of another state), calling into question the possibility of supporting civilized relations with other states. Taking into account that it is not the first time Russia has neglected international law (Chechnya, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Transnistria), it has transferred itself to the category of rogue countries.

2. Russia claims that the 2014 pseudo-referendum was the result of the spontaneous expression of the will made by the residents of the peninsula. In fact, yet since the collapse of the USSR (in 1991) the Russian leadership set the task of annexing Crimea to Russia. As it comes from the memoirs of the first leader of new Russia’s advisers, B. Yeltsin was convinced that sooner or later Ukraine would “come to Moscow on bended knee”, and even then he considered the question of the territorial affiliation of the peninsula a tactical ploy only.

But Ukraine, to the surprise of the Russian politicians, turned out to be a stable and viable state. Therefore, after pro-European president V. Yushchenko came to power in 2005, the authoritarian Russian leader V. Putin decided not to let the situation run its course. Taking advantage of Kyiv’s extremely soft policy toward national minorities, Moscow systematically conducted an aggressive information campaign in the south of Ukraine and in Crimea aimed at tearing the territories away. Although young generations of Crimeans were pro-Ukrainian and pro-European, in 2014 during the so-called “Russian Spring” in Crimea V. Putin managed to rely on the elderly generation, who felt nostalgia for life in the USSR, and attract it to his side.

3. Russia claims that by the annexation of Crimea historical justice was restored since the peninsula has been the patrimony of the Russian people since ancient times. In fact, after the Tauri tribe (which gave the peninsula a Greek name — Tauris), various cattle-breeding tribes of Iranian origin (Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians) and the proto-states of Goths (with a separate Gothic diocese), the Greeks colonized the entire Black Sea coast of the peninsula.

They got a toehold in Crimea — having survived the Bosporus kingdom, the Roman Empire and Byzantium — from the sixth century B.C. to the middle of the 15th century A.D. That is Greeks who can believe Crimea is a primordially Greek land, however, this does not pop into their head. The ancient Slavic state of Kievan Rus (the successor of which Ukraine, but by no means modern Russia, may itself consider) traded and fought with Crimea, but never controlled it. Unlike, for example, the Venetian and Genoese republics, which fought fiercely for Black Sea ports. At the same time, modern Italians also do not lay any special claims to the peninsula.

From the middle of the 15th and until the end of the 18th century the Crimean Khanate and its overlords — the Ottoman Empire — rule over the peninsula. Only in 1783 under the rule of Empress Catherine II the Crimean Khanate was liquidated, and the peninsula officially became part of the Russian Empire. Since there were few Slavs in Crimea (particularly Christians, since those Slavs hijacked into slavery eventually took root on the peninsula and adopted Islam), the Russian Empire proceeded to “squeezing out” the Crimean Tatars from their land. About 300 thousand of Tatars of the approximately 450 thousand living in Crimea, were forced to leave the peninsula and settled in various provinces of the then Ottoman Empire (mainly in the territory of modern Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey). In 1795 the peninsula was almost empty! All Tatars who left were replaced by the Russian Empire with representatives of the Russian ethnic group. Russia made the same maneuver twice later — after 1944 and after 2014!

4. The Russian Federation claims that Crimea and Sevastopol were annexed without firing a single shot. In fact, at least three people died — two Ukrainian servicemen and one civilian. On March 3, 2014, Crimean Tatar R. Ametov took part in a peaceful rally in front of the Crimean government building in Simferopol, protesting against Russian aggression and seizure of state institutions by the Russian military without identification marks. After that he was stolen by Russian special services, and two weeks later he was found dead in the forest with signs of torture on his body. This terrible death was the beginning of a campaign directed against the entire Crimean Tatar community of the peninsula.

5. The Russian Federation claims that Crimea population is a completely satisfied with their new life, warmed by the rays of Kremlin sun. In fact, after the annexation, Ukrainian passports were forcibly withdrawn from the inhabitants of the peninsula. Those dissent and dissatisfied were threatened with the deprivation of private property, imprisonment or expulsion from Crimea.

Over the past six years, Moscow has been pursuing a policy of demographic substitution in Crimea — Russians (in particular, military pensioners) are highly welcomed to remove to the peninsula, while Crimean Tatars are diluted by Tatars from the Volga, Ural and Siberia. The Russian intelligence services accuse the Crimean Tatars of all mortal sins, and above all, of extremism and Islamic radicalism. Kremlin even came up with an incredibly convenient scheme: no matter how many Russian military personnel, “volunteers” or “private military company” fighters were captured during military operations in eastern Ukraine, Russian special services may arrest the required number of Tatars in Crimea for subsequent “prisoner exchange” between Kiev and Moscow.

6. The Russian Federation claims that the peninsula has every chance to regain the old glory of the “All-Union health resort”, turning into a successful European-scale resort. In fact, the sixth year of the unprecedented militarization of Crimea, with the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear submarines on the peninsula runs on. It seems that soon only James Bond and other special agents will be interested in recreating at such a resort, while ordinary people (Ukrainians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Poles, often vacationing in Crimea) now prefer more restful and peaceful places.

Well, if inviolability of international law, adherence to the rules of the game on the world stage, respect for the sovereignty of other states, for human rights and freedoms mean more than an empty phrase for Europeans, then Crimean issue should not be forgotten, we should talk about it constantly, at all the international platforms.

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