Ukraine Crisis: Russia recognizes Crimea as an independent state

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree, which recognizes Crimea as a sovereign and independent state. The Kremlin said the order took effect immediate. The move by Putin is seen...
A pro-Russian demonstrator scuffles with police during a rally in Donetsk. Photo: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree, which recognizes Crimea as a sovereign and independent state. The Kremlin said the order took effect immediate. The move by Putin is seen as a first step towards integrating Crimea into the Russian Federation after Sunday’s overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote in the peninsula to join the Russian Federation.

Moscow’s recognition of Crimea as independent is based on “the will of the people of Crimea”.

ussian President Vladimir Putin passes guards as he enters St. George's Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace. (Photo: Astakhov Dmitri/ITAR-TASS_

ussian President Vladimir Putin passes guards as he enters St. George’s Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace. (Photo: Astakhov Dmitri/ITAR-TASS_

Crimea’s leaders declared 97-percent result in favor of seceding from Ukraine in a vote condemned as illegal by Kiev and the West. The Crimean parliament formally proposed that Russia “admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic”. Russian President Vladimir Putin approved an executive order on recognizing the Crimea as an independent republic.

The city of Sevastopol has a special status,” the Executive Order reads, according to a statement released by the Kremlin.  The order comes into force on the day of its signing, the Kremlin added.

UKRAINE WILL NOT ACCEPT IT

Ukraine’s acting president on Monday said Kiev was ready for talks with Russia on Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, but it would never accept annexation of the peninsula.

“We are ready for talks, but will never be reconciled with the annexation of our territory,” Oleksander Turchinov said in a televised address to the nation.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry earlier rejected a Russian proposal to create a contact group to mediate in the crisis and suggest changes to Ukraine’s constitution. In his address, Turchinov also said that any actions inciting mass disorder in Ukraine would been viewed as “abetting the military aggressor and a crime against the state”

Washington demand additional reactions

After imposing sanctions by executive order on several Russian officials for their role in the Crimean secession process, it is still not clear what other steps Washington might take to de-escalate tensions and oppose any further action Moscow may make in the Ukraine.

In his latest phone conversation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday warned Moscow against further military advances toward southern and eastern Ukraine.

But experts’ caution sanctions may provoke an even sharper reaction from Moscow.

Crimea may already be lost

They say targeting members of Putin’s cabinet will fail if potential consequences are ignored. Indeed, Europe’s dependence on Russian gas might be a very big roadblock to a tougher approach in the near future even as the European Union imposes their own sanctions.

“Let us not forget that Russia in 2006 played the energy card by shutting the pipeline supply,” warned John J. Metzler, a professor of government at St. John’s University in New York.

Metzler, the author of “Trans-Atlantic Divide: The USA/Euro land Rift?” (2010) Which deals precisely with these issues, told THE Frontliner it is not wise to “publically close the door to diplomacy” since Crimea may already be lost.

Neither, in the upcoming days and weeks, would Washington’s unilateral tone be helpful when it comes to the rest of Ukraine.  “Rather than playing a rhetorical game, Washington should engage in quiet ‘back channel’ diplomacy and let the Russians know that any steps beyond Crimea would seriously harm Russia’s commercial relationship with the West,” Metzler said.

Unilateralism will not work While Brussels and Washington do speak with one voice on the illegality of the Crimea referendum, Europe may have even more difficulty in adjusting to further and deeper sanctions on Russia. Metzler described the Europeans and Ukraine as “dangerously dependent” on the free flow of Russian natural gas. In addition, he listed the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia alongside the overwhelmingly European “club of dependency.” Even Germany “the economic powerhouse of the EU is heavily dependent,” he added.

Therefore, Metzler recalled when there was first talk of the trans-Siberian gas link from Russia in the early 1980s, then U.S. President Ronald Reagan warned the Europeans about energy dependence on the Soviet Union.  “Many in Europe, especially big business and much of the establishment, laughed at Reagan’s warning which has become a prophesy,” Metzler said.

Now Putin probes Western weakness in his attempt to rebuild influence on the ruins of the old Soviet empire, analysts say. “The Russian president plays by a historic and neo-nationalistic rulebook of Russian nostalgia and retro Soviet swag mixed with ruthless realpolitik politics,” Metzler said.

Yet Metzler says this time, Putin may have miscalculated in ignoring the warnings from the West. Even as diplomats at the United Nations in New York say miscalculations from any side are the real danger to world peace.

Hague: Clear attempt to pave way for Crimea annexation

After President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the referendum was not legitimate and its outcome was not legal.

The Foreign Secretary said:

››We are witnessing a clear attempt to pave the way for the annexation of part of the sovereign territory of an independent European state, through military force and an illegal and illegitimate referendum.

The UK calls again on Russia to enter into dialogue with Ukraine and with the international community to resolve this crisis through diplomacy and in accordance with international law, not to exacerbate it further through unilateral and provocative actions.

Continuing to ignore those calls will bring serious consequences for Russia. We will urgently consider our response to this latest escalation with our allies and partners, including at the European Council this week‹‹

Ukraine authorities live in fear of provoking Russians

With reports of Russian forces massing over the border, Ukrainian reaction to yesterday’s vote has been, by necessity, pretty muted. Angry as some are, Ukrainians don’t want to do anything that might give those Russian troops an excuse to roll into Eastern Ukraine.

Russian lawmakers named by the White House as falling under sanctions from the United States after the Crimea vote reacted defiantly on Monday.

“There hasn’t been anything like this even in the Cold War years,” said Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, quoted by Interfax news agency.

“This is political blackmail,” said Mrs. Matviyenko, a former deputy prime minister, denying she had any assets, accounts or property abroad.

“No one will manage to scare us with threats,” she said.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PENINSULA

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.

Crimean Peninsula on the north shore of the Black Sea with a predominantly Russian ethnic majority. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea includes nearly all of the Crimean Peninsula, with the small exception of Sevastopol.

Due to recent political instability in the region and the claimed ‘invasion by Russian military forces, national sovereignty over the peninsula is recently being disputed by RWestern powers and Russia’s recognition of its self-declared will of independence through a referendum held on March 16th, 2014. On March 11, 2014, the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted a Crimean declaration of independence from Ukraine, ahead of the planned referendum.

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine and is governed by the Constitution of Crimea in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. The capital and administrative seat of the republic’s government is the city of Simferopol, located in the center of the peninsula.

Crimean Tatars, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who in 2001 made up 12.10% of the population, formed in Crimea in the late Middle Ages, after the Crimean Khanate had come into existence. The Crimean Tatars were forcibly expelled to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin’s government. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Crimean Tatars began to return to the region. According to the 2001 Ukrainian population census 58% of the population of Crimea are ethnic Russians and 24% are ethnic Ukrainians. The region has a high proportion of Muslims.

UkraineNativeLanguagesCensus2001detailed-en

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