The Crimean peninsula was conquered by Russia in the 18th century under Catherine the Great. Crimea became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia. Crimea officially landed in an independent Ukraine after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Today the port of Sevastopol is home to the Kremlin’s Black Sea Fleet. Ethnic Russians make up the majority of Crimea’s population, many have Russian citizenship and 60^ are Russian speakers.
It remains legally part of Ukraine – a status that Russia backed when pledging to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine in a memorandum signed in 1994, also signed by the US, UK and France.
It is an autonomous republic within Ukraine, electing its own parliament. However, the post of Crimean president was abolished in 1995, shortly after a pro-Russian Crimean separatist won the post with a big majority. It now has a presidential representative, and a prime minister, but both are appointed by Kiev.