Type: Analysis
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The revolution in Ukraine is one of the most discussed and topical issues in today’s media. There cannot be a one-sided point of view on the topic, as it is very complex and controversial. Yet, a closer look may clarify the situation. The Crimean crisis is closely connected to the previous events that have occurred in Ukraine. It is an international crisis involving Ukraine and Russia. Until February 2014, the Crimean Peninsula was administered by Ukraine. The Crimea was the Autonomous Republic within the Ukrainian state. The majority of the population there comprises ethnic Russians. Additionally, there are minorities of Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians. The crisis resulted in the referendum which was held by the Russian government. People were asked to vote if they wanted to join Russian Federation. As a result, the majority of the population has voted for separation from Ukraine. The referendum was condemned by the EU, the USA, Crimean Tatar officials, and Ukraine as unconstitutional and contrary to international law. At the moment, the Crimea is administered by the Russian Federation. Thus, the territory is not recognized by numerous countries. The crisis appears to be controversial and multilevel. It affects many parties and calls into question the effectiveness of modern system of international law. In any case, the secession of the Crimean Peninsula is a complete violation of all international norms, while it challenges the global balance of power.

It is crucial to understand the background and prevailing historical conditions that served as the beginning of the Crimean crisis. The peninsula has always been a strategic territory for the Russian Federation. The Black Sea represents the only year-round access to the sea straits for Russia. Thus, Russian-Ukrainian Partition Treaty was signed in 1997 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It determined the fate of vessels and military bases in Crimea. By this treaty, Russia was allowed to have 24 artillery systems, 25,000 troops, 22 military planes, and 132 armored vehicles on the Crimean Peninsula (“Why Crimea is so dangerous,” 2014). The Treaty was prolonged in 2010, giving basing rights to the Russian Black Sea Fleet until 2042. Moreover, such locations as the town of Kacha and the Port of Sevastopol hold essential strategic value for the Russian Federation, both military and economically. The Port of Sevastopol provides maritime routes between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, while the former grants access to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. With regards to ethnic composition of the population on the peninsula, ethnic Russians constitute 52% of the two million people who live in Crimea. Sevastopol, the city where the base of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet is situated, is resided by 70% of ethnic Russians. At the same time, Ukrainians make up only 24% of the population while Crimean Tatars, the original inhabitants of the peninsula, comprise 12% (“Why Crimea is so dangerous,” 2014). Thus, Russia has particular strategic interests on the peninsula, where ethnic Russians comprise most of the population. One may come to a conclusion that only a minor push was needed for the intensification of the conflict. Ukrainian revolution became such impetus.

The revolution in Ukraine started in late 2013. The Ukrainian government suspended the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU in order to establish closer economic relations with Russia. On the 21st of November 2013, people organized a protest in Kiev. They demanded closer European integration. After the integration with Europe had been definitely suspended overnight, peaceful protestants occupied Independence Square known as Maidan. The beating of opposition activists caused the demonstrations to intensify and spread. The requirement to sign the Association Agreement with the EU shifted toward other demands. People merely wanted the president to resign, as they believed that he no longer represented the interests of Ukrainian citizens. The biggest protests were held in the Western part of Ukraine and in the Kiev area. Three opposition parties tried to head the protests, but they failed, as they did not earn the trust of many people. Additionally, there were several radical right-wing groups. Yet, it is not clear what impact they have had on the situation and people in general.

Regarding the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, he wants to make his country a big economic player. The influence on Ukraine takes a major part in this process. At the same time, the EU sees Ukraine as the part of European integration process. However, it does not give any promises of entering the EU. Additionally, the situation complicates by different opinions in the Western and Eastern parts of the country. Many Ukrainians in the East fear to lose their jobs which are closely connected with Russia. The Westerners strive toward the rule of law and prosperity they consider the EU may bring. As a result of accumulated contradictions, the revolution peaked on the 20th of February, when 103 people were killed during the clash between the protestants and police (Fraser, 2014). Dozens of people were killed by snipers, whose identity is still not ascertained. The majority of Ukrainian and Western media believe that the snipers have been hired by Viktor Yanukovich, the former president of Ukraine. The other versions involve the actions of the Russian secrete services. Thus, Russian presence became increasingly evident. Eventually, Yanukovich fled the country after the impeachment made by Ukrainian government.

According to its strategic interests, Russia played a significant role in the development of events. The Russian Federation refused to recognize new authorities. They were considered to come to power unconstitutionally and with the help of extreme-right political forces. The situation got more complicated, as some residents in the Southern and Eastern parts of Ukraine felt disenfranchised because of such developments. One should acknowledge that the majority of population in Eastern and Western parts of the country is primarily Russian-speaking. Previously, they constituted the support base of President Yanukovich. Thus, they started to protest against the new government in Kiev. At the same time, pro-Russian forces started to take control over the Crimean Peninsula. Russian government denied that it was its military and stated that men without any uniform were local self-defense forces. Eventually, these unknown men seized the building of the Council of Ministers in Simferopol and the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea. According to “Foreign Policy”, Leonid Slutsky, the head of the State Duma Committee on Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, stated that “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” (Kozlowska, 2014). Thus, it was an official statement that meant Russian support and assistance if the Crimean population decided to secede from Ukraine. Moreover, Russian government considered Viktor Yanukovich to remain the legitimate president of Ukraine. On the 26th of February, Vladimir Putin announced mobilization of the Russian Armed Forces in the Western Military District. At the same time, Russia dismissed accusations that it violated the basic agreements considering the indwelling of the Russian’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. On the 28th of February, President Putin, while speaking with key EU leaders, pointed out that 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” (Higgins & Erlanger, 2014, p. 18). On the same day, an emergency session was held in the Supreme Council of Crimea. The Council of Ministers was terminated, while the Prime Minister of Crimea was replaced. Members of the Crimean Parliament stated that Viktor Yanukovich remained the legitimate President of Ukraine.

The official position of former and current political leaders of Ukraine was evidently opposite. For instance, three former presidents of the country accused Vladimir Putin of interfering in internal affairs of Ukraine. Some of the leaders warned that there was a serious possibility of separatism in some parts of the country. On the 27th of February, the Central Election Commission of Ukraine released a statement saying that regional referendum in Crimea is impossible due to lack of legislative basis (Sneider, 2014, p. 24). This is true, as the Constitution of Ukraine recognizes the legitimacy of the national referendum. Thus, local referendum runs counter to the basic provisions of the Constitution. In his speech, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the new Prime Minister of Ukraine, stated that “Ukraine will use all legal constitutional methods to preserve the territorial integrity of the state. Crimea was, is and will be a part of Ukraine” (Alpert & Solomon, 2014, p. 36). At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine indicated that it was ready to initiate bilateral consultations with the Russian Federation within the framework of Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Additionally, the appointment of Sergey Aksyonov as the Prime Minister of Crimea was acknowledged to be violating and illegitimate in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine. All of the former Ukrainian presidents called new government to renounce the Kharkiv Agreements, while the interim president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, ordered the full combat readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

On the 11th of March, the Sevastopol City Council and the Supreme Court of Crimea adopted the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Crimea, where they expressed their intent to organize the referendum on secession from Ukraine (Sneider, 2014, p. 24). It is worth emphasizing that on the 15th of March, thousands of Russian citizens organized anti-war protests in the capital of Russia. They opposed military intervention in the Crimean Peninsula. Moreover, it was the largest demonstration in recent years. At the same time, hundreds of people left Crimea because of security reasons. The result of referendum was decided by a simple majority of the votes. Various newspapers, such as New York Times, stated that questions in bulletins have created a significant controversy. For instance, nothing elaborated on whether the Constitution of 1992 was to be adopted in its amended form or original one. The peculiarity of the situation lied in the fact that the Crimean Constitution had originally been adopted simultaneously with the Declaration of Independence. Yet, a day later, it was amended in order to affirm the notion that Crimea would be the part of Ukraine. Thus, both choices implied the de facto independence (Sneider, 2014, p. 24). According to those who organized the referendum, there was an 83.1% turnout in the Crimean Peninsula. 96% of the population supported the separation of Crimea from Ukraine and its entry into the Russian Federation. Thus, Crimea declared its independence and started to seek recognition of the United Nations. The Russian Federation recognized Crimea as a sovereign state on the same day. A week later, Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled its ambassador from Russia in order to discuss the present situation in Crimea. On the 19th of March, Ukraine made plans to withdraw all the soldiers from the peninsula. Additionally, several Russian TV channels stopped to transmit on the territory of Ukraine (Freeman, 2014). Thus, Ukraine refused to take aggressive steps toward the Russian Federation, but tried to express its position by the previously mentioned actions. It is needless to say that Ukraine did not recognize the results of referendum in Crimea. The Ukrainian government, as many other countries, did not acknowledge the Crimean Peninsula as the subject of Russian Federation.

Crimean crisis provoked a significant international reaction. A non-binding resolution was passed by the UN General Assembly. 100 countries did not recognize the referendum in Crimea, 11 approved it, and 58 abstained (“UN General Assembly approves,” 2014). The United States imposed sanctions on individuals who assisted in violation or violated the sovereignty of Ukraine. The European Union suspended talks with Russian Federation on visa related and economic matters, while it considers more severe sanctions in the near future. Additionally, Japan suspended talks regarding visa requirements, space, military, and investment. The Group of 7, which includes the United States, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan condemned the Russian Federation and decided to suspend preparations for the G8 summit that was previously planned to be held in Sochi in summer. The Council of Europe expressed its support for the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. NATO stated that Russian military escalation in Crimea was breach of international law. At the same time, India made it clear that it “…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” (“UN General Assembly approves,” 2014). Moreover, Venezuela and Syria supported military action of the Russian Federation, while Sri-Lanka stated that Russian policy in Crimea was justified, as the removal of Victor Yanukovich had been unconstitutional. As of the last news, PACE decided to deprive the Russian Federation of voting rights in response to Russian aggressive intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine (“UN General Assembly approves,” 2014).

The intervention in Crimea made other countries worry that Russia may do the same in other regions. For instance, Tony Blinken, US Deputy National Security Advisor, pointed out that the Russian soldiers located on the eastern Ukrainian border may be planning to occupy the eastern regions of Ukraine. Philip Breedlove, US Air Force General and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, stated that the same soldiers may take over the province of Transnistria, which is the Moldovan Russian-speaking separatist territory (Freeman, 2014). It is impossible to accurately predict whether these fears would come true, as the described statements and events take place right at the moment.

Regarding the legal aspect of the events, Ukraine and Russia are signatories to the Charter of the United Nations. Its ratification implies certain terms of international law including the subjects of self-determination, acts of aggression, declarations of independence, humanitarian emergencies, and sovereignty. On the one hand, Vladimir Putin claimed that the Russian Federation has not exercised military intervention in Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukraine and many other nations insist on the fact of intervention. They argue that such action is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. In response, Russia does nor recognize that its armed forces were involved in the stand-off in Crimea, while noting that, in due time, the United Nations International Court of Justice recognized the independence of Kosovo without any referendum, as it was in accordance with international law. One may come to a conclusion that the international law system is malfunctioning, as each country interprets international norms on the basis of the individual case, depending on its own interests and benefits from the current event. Thus, the same actions of different countries may be supported on one occasion, or blamed on another one.

Crimean crisis has a great international significance that forms a variety of opinions. For instance, the article in The Guardian proposes an alternative view on the situation. Malcolm Fraser states that the Western world covers the dispute as totally one-sided. For instance, the Crimean crisis is not the fault of Russia, but a result of misguided steps that have been taken by Western leaders after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990’s, there were hopes that the Cold War ideology can be put behind. There were many ways to provide security to the former members of the Soviet Union. Yet, NATO decided to move eastward to the borders of Russia. The article points out that the West did not want to make a co-operative partnership with Russia in the management of European affairs (Fraser, 2014). It was acting as though the Cold War continued. The Western countries supported Ukrainian pro-European governments by any means and opposed pro-Russian governments. Additionally, Fraser points out the US foreign policy in the Western Pacific Region. He blames the US for the dangerous policy of containment in China. The relations between previously mentioned countries should be co-operative in order to prevent possible strategic agreements between China and Russia (Fraser, 2014). Fraser suggests that there cannot be any solution until the Western leaders realize their past mistakes. The author holds the other position than most of the media in the USA. He does not blame Russia for everything that is happening. He tries to examine what was done wrong and how it can be fixed. He focuses on the criticism of the US and EU, while he forgets that all of the sides had made mistakes that led to the current situation. The only sure point is that the world allowed the separation of Crimea from Ukraine; the irreversible precedent has arisen. It might give the opportunity and the right for other national minorities to separate from their states.

In conclusion, Crimean crisis is a complex and controversial issue. It is an international crisis involving Ukraine and Russia. The peculiarity of the peninsula is that the majority of its population comprises ethnic Russians. The Crimea was the Autonomous Republic within the Ukrainian state. Yet, the crisis resulted in the referendum which was held by the Russian government. At the moment, Crimea is a subject of the Russian Federation, as it separated from Ukraine. There are various points of view regarding the crisis. At the same time, it is fair to say that Russia has long-term interest in the Crimean Peninsula, as in the strategic object. Thus, President Putin’s actions become apparent and logical. One may come to a conclusion that the international law system is malfunctioning, as each country interprets international norms on the basis of the individual case, taking into account its own interests and benefits. Nevertheless, most of the countries believe that the secession of the Crimean Peninsula is considered to be a complete violation of all international norms. It is needless to say that the Ukrainian government does not acknowledge the Crimean Peninsula as the subject of Russian Federation.

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