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Crimea – half a decade with Russia

On March 18, it will be five years since the Crimea Peninsula reunited with the Russian Federation. For centuries this region has been playing an important role in the Russian history. For Russians it means practically the same as Temple Mount in Jerusalem does for Muslims and Judaists. In 988 the Russian Grand Duke Vladimir was baptized in the Crimean town of Chersonesus and then brought Christianity to entire Rus’ (ancient name of Russia).

In the 13th century, when the Russian land suffered from the Tatar-Mongol invasion, Tatars occupied Crimea and established a state there, subordinate to the Ottoman Empire. The peninsula became a part of Russia again five centuries later with signing of the Manifesto “on Accession of Crimean Peninsula, Taman Island and Kuban Region to the Russian Empire” by Empress of Russia Catherine the Great on April 19, 1783. Under Treaty of Jassy on eternal friendship and peace between Russian and the Ottoman empires of 1791, Istanbul recognized Crimea as a part of the Russian state.

As for Ukraine, the transfer of the Crimean Region and the city of Sevastopol (both predominantly populated by Russians) to that part of the USSR was initiated in 1954 by the Soviet Union’s leader Nikita Khrushchev. This decision was soon declared illegitimate by the USSR Supreme Court. After the disintegration
of the Soviet Union the new Ukrainian authorities did not wish to return this age-old Russian land to the Russian Federation. Although the Crimean people expressed strong unwillingness to be part of Ukraine at two state referendums in 1991 and 1994, the results of those plebiscites were not recognized by the authorities in Kiev. They agreed to grant autonomy to Crimea only under the threat of armed resistance from the peninsula residents.

In February 2014 an unconstitutional coup occurred in Ukraine, and undisguised Russophobes, who vehemently hated Russia, were taking high-ranking positions in ruling offices. They said openly that “Russians should be either eliminated in Crimea or ousted from there”.

In these circumstances, in view of ensuring safety and security of Crimeans, the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum on March 16, 2014. 83,1% of residents took part in this referendum of which 96,8% voted for reunification with Russia. On March 17 the Republic of Crimea was proclaimed an independent sovereign state and on March 18 it signed an international treaty on integration with Russia. Thus, the people of Crimea exercised their UN Charter-enshrined legitimate right to self-determination through free, peaceful voting in full compliance with all international standards.

There is a widespread belief in the West that the Russian governance was brought to Crimea “by Russian riffles”. To shatter this myth it is worth mentioning that there was not a single armed clash in Crimea in 2014,
and not a single victim. The Russian military contingent there did not exceed 25 thousand servicemen and therefore was deployed in Crimea on an absolutely legal basis in full compliance with the 1997 Russia-Ukraine Agreement on the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

The decision, taken five years back, is justified by the life itself.
The bloodshed in Donbas is a vivid argument to prove the rightness of that choice. Imagine what could have happened if the Ukrainian political realities of the latest years had been brought to Crimea, if the peninsula had remained part of that country.

If you ask what the current situation there looks like, it can be described in one word – renaissance. Seven hundred kilometers of roads, previously worn out to 80%, have been repaired; a state-of-the-art airport has been built; shipbuilding yards are deployed to full capacity; the traditional Crimean wine-making has been brought back to life; world-famous Crimean palaces are being repaired and restored. Tourism grew by 1 million visitors to compare with the “Ukranian” period (6,5 mil now against 5,5 mil then). Wages and pension allowances doubled. The establishment of a special economic zone on the peninsula is meant to stimulate entrepreneurship. The Russian Government has launched a complex policy “Social-economic development of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol City” with overall funding of 1 trillion rubles (around 21 billion AUD).

Those people who still call for returning Crimea to Ukraine may easily visit the Peninsula themselves and say this to Crimeans straight into their eyes and see what the reaction would be.