Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation

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Annexation of Crimea by Russia
Putin with Vladimir Konstantinov, Sergey Aksyonov and Alexey Chaly 4.jpeg
From left to right: Sergey Aksyonov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vladimir Putin, and Alexei Chaly sign the "Restitution of Crimea and Sevastopol inside the Russian Federation" treaty on 18 March 2014
Date 18–21 March 2014
(Treaty signing to ratification)
Location Crimean Peninsula
Moscow, Russia
Also known as Annexation of Crimea by Russia[1]
Accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation[2]
Participants  Russia
Republic of Crimea
Accession treaty ratified 21 March 2014 (2014-03-21)
Finalization 1 January 2015 (2015-01-01)
Status Disputed by Ukraine; not recognized by the majority of the United Nations members

The internationally recognised Ukrainian territory of Crimea, consisting of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, was annexed by the Russian Federation in March 2014. From the time of the annexation on 21 March 2014, Russia has de facto administered the territory as two federal subjects— the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol[3] – within the Crimean Federal District.

The annexation took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Crimean crisis as the result of military intervention by Russia into the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, both of which had been administrative divisions of Ukraine. Masked green troops without insignia, identified as the Russian military by multiple worldwide sources, took over the Supreme Council of Crimea,[4][5] which led to the installation of the pro-Russian Aksyonov government in Crimea, the declaration of Crimea's independence and the holding of a disputed, unconstitutional referendum, that was described by BBC News reporter John Simpson as a "remarkable, quick and mostly bloodless coup d'état".[6]

The event caused much controversy and was condemned by many world leaders, as well as NATO, as an illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, in disrespect to the signing of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, by Russia.[7] It led to the other members of the then G8 deciding to expel Russia from the group, thereby returning it to the previous G7, then introducing the first round of sanctions against the country.[citation needed] Moreover, the Yatsenyuk Government, responsible for internal Ukrainian affairs at the time, confirmed at least seven constitutional violations of the process, including the dodged obligation of Crimea to request such restitution from Ukraine itself first, before being given the formal right to conduct any supra-political processes for the matter.

Russia opposes the "annexation" label,[8] with Putin defending the referendum saying it complied with international law.[9] Ukraine disputes this, as it does not recognize the independence of the Republic of Crimea or the accession itself as legitimate.[10] The United Nations General Assembly also rejected the vote and annexation, adopting a non-binding resolution affirming the "territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders".[11][12]


From 1783, Crimea was a part of the Russian Empire, incorporated into it as Taurida Oblast. In 1795, Crimea was merged into Novorossiysk Governorate, and in 1803, it was again separated from it into Taurida Governorate. A series of short-lived governments (Crimean People's Republic, Crimean Regional Government, Crimean SSR) were established during first stages of the Russian Civil War, but they were followed by White Russian (General Command of the Armed Forces of South Russia, later South Russian Government) and, finally, Soviet (Crimean ASSR) incorporations of Crimea into their own states. After World War II and the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, the Crimean ASSR was stripped of its autonomy in 1946 and was downgraded to the status of an oblast.

Russian President Vladimir Putin laying wreaths at a monument to the defenders of Sevastopol, April 2000

In 1954, the Crimean Oblast was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. However, it was unclear whether the transfer affected the peninsula's largest city of Sevastopol, which enjoyed a special status in the postwar Soviet Union,[13] and in 1993, the Supreme Soviet of Russia claimed Sevastopol was part of Russia,[14] resulting in a territorial dispute with Ukraine.[15]

In 1989, under perestroika, the Supreme Soviet declared the deportation of the Crimean Tatars under Stalin had been illegal,[16] and the mostly Muslim ethnic group was allowed to return to Crimea.[17]

In 1990, the Crimean Oblast Soviet proposed the restoration of the Crimean ASSR.[18] The oblast conducted a referendum in 1991, which asked whether Crimea should be elevated into a signatory of the New Union Treaty (that is, became a union republic on its own). By that time, though, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was well underway. The Crimean ASSR was restored for less than a year as part of Soviet Ukraine before Ukrainian independence. Newly independent Ukraine maintained Crimea's autonomous status,[19] while the Supreme Council of Crimea affirmed the peninsula's "state sovereignty".[20][21]

On 21 May 1992, the Supreme Soviet of Russia adopted a resolution, which declared Crimea's 1954 transfer invalid and called for trilateral negotiations on the peninsula's status. Confrontation between the president and parliament of Russia, which later erupted into armed conflict in Moscow, prevented this declaration from having any actual effect in Crimea or Ukraine.[22]

From 1992 to 1994, various pro-Russian political movements attempted to separate Crimea from Ukraine. The 1994 regional elections represented a high point for pro-Russian political factions in Crimea.[23] But the elections came at a difficult time for Crimeans who wanted to rejoin Russia, as the Russian government was engaged in a rapprochement with the Western world and the Ukrainian government was determined to safeguard its sovereignty. These factors enabled Ukrainian authorities to abolish the Crimean presidency and constitution by 1995,[24][25] without any meaningful interference or protest from Ukraine's eastern neighbor. Afterwards, pro-Russian movements largely waned, and in 1998, the separatists lost the Crimean Supreme Council election.[23]

During the 2000s, as tensions between Russia and several of its neighbors rose, the likelihood of Russian-Ukrainian conflict around Crimea increased. A Council on Foreign Relations report released in 2009 outlined a scenario under which Russia could intervene in Crimea to protect "Russian compatriots", potentially with the backing of Crimean Tatars.[26]

Euromaidan and 2014 Ukrainian revolution[edit]

The Euromaidan movement began in late November 2013 with protests in Kiev against President Viktor Yanukovych, who won election in 2010 with strong support in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine. The Crimean government strongly supported Yanukovych and condemned the protests, saying they were "threatening political stability in the country". The Supreme Council of Crimea supported the government's decision to suspend negotiations on the pending Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and urged Crimeans to "strengthen friendly ties with Russian regions".[27][28][29]

On 4 February 2014, the Presidium of the Supreme Council considered holding a referendum on the peninsula's status and asking the government of Russia to guarantee the vote.[30] The Security Service of Ukraine responded by opening a criminal case to investigate the possible "subversion" of Ukraine's territorial integrity.[31]

The Euromaidan protests reached a fever pitch in February 2014, and Yanukovych and many of his ministers fled the capital. After opposition factions and defectors from Yanukovych's Party of Regions cobbled together a parliamentary quorum in the Verkhovna Rada, the national legislature voted on 22 February to remove Viktor Yanukovich from his post on the grounds that he was unable to fulfill his duties,[32] although the legislative removal lacked the required three quarter vote of sitting MPs according to the constitution in effect at the time, which the Rada also voted to nullify.[33][34][35] This move was regarded as a coup d'état by many within Ukraine and Russia,[36] although it was widely recognized internationally.[37]

Change of regional government and Russian intervention[edit]

Around 30,000 people gathered on 15 March protests against annexation, named the March of Peace, it took place in Moscow a day before the Crimean referendum[38]

The revolution against Yanukovich triggered a political crisis in Crimea, which started as demonstrations against new central authorities, but rapidly escalated due to Russia's overt support for separatist political factions.

On 27 February, unidentified troops widely suspected of being Russian commandos seized the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea (the regional parliament) and the building of the Council of Ministers in Simferopol.[39][40] Russian flags were raised over these buildings,[41] and barricades were erected outside them.[42] With the unidentified troops still occupying the government building in Simferopol, the Supreme Council of Crimea dissolved the old Council of Ministers of Crimea and designated Sergey Aksyonov, leader of the minority Russian Unity party, to be Crimea's new prime minister. This appointment was declared illegal by Ukraine's new interim government.[43] Both Aksyonov and speaker Vladimir Konstantinov stated that they viewed Viktor Yanukovich as the de jure president of Ukraine, through whom they were able to ask Russia for assistance.[44] On the same day, more troops in unmarked uniforms, assisted this time by Crimean riot police known as Berkut, established security checkpoints on the Isthmus of Perekop and the Chonhar Peninsula, which separate Crimea from the Ukrainian mainland.[42][45][46][47][48] Within hours, Ukraine had effectively been cut off from Crimea.

Pro-Russian supporters in Sevastopol, Crimea, hundreds of thousands gather here on 9 May 2014[49]

On 1 March 2014, Aksyonov declared Crimea's new de facto authorities would exercise control of all Ukrainian military installations on the peninsula. He also asked Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been Yanukovych's primary international backer and guarantor, for "assistance in ensuring peace and public order" in Crimea.[50] Putin promptly received authorization from the Federation Council of Russia for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine "until normalization of a socio-political environment in the country".[51][52] Putin's swift maneuver prompted protests of intelligentsia and demonstrations in Moscow against a Russian military campaign in Crimea. By 2 March, Russian troops moving from the country's naval base in Sevastopol and reinforced by troops, armor, and helicopters from mainland Russia exercised complete control over the Crimean Peninsula.[53][54][55] Russian troops operated in Crimea without insignia. Despite numerous media reports and statements by the Ukrainian and foreign governments describing the unmarked troops as Russian soldiers, government officials concealed the identity of their forces, claiming they were local "self-defense" units over whom they had no authority.[56] As late as 17 April, Russian foreign minister Lavrov claimed that there are no spare armed forces in the territory of Crimea.[57]

Russian officials eventually admitted to their troops' presence. On 17 April 2014, Putin acknowledged the Russian military backed Crimean separatist militias, stating that Russia's intervention was necessary "to ensure proper conditions for the people of Crimea to be able to freely express their will".[58] Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said the country's military actions in Crimea were undertaken by forces of the Black Sea Fleet and were justified by "threat to lives of Crimean civilians" and danger of "takeover of Russian military infrastructure by extremists".[59] Ukraine complained that by increasing its troop presence in Crimea, Russia violated the agreement under which it headquartered its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol[60] and violated the country's sovereignty.[61] The United States and United Kingdom also accused Russia of breaking the terms of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, by which Russia, the U.S., and the UK had reaffirmed their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.[62] The Russian government said the Budapest Memorandum did not apply due to "complicated internal processes" in Crimea.[63][64]

Legal obstacles to Crimea annexation[edit]

According to the Constitution of Russia, the admission of new federal subjects is governed by federal constitutional law (art. 65.2).[65] Such a law was adopted in 2001, and it postulates that admission of a foreign state or its part into Russia shall be based on a mutual accord between the Russian Federation and the relevant state and shall take place pursuant to an international treaty between the two countries; moreover, it must be initiated by the state in question, not by its subdivision or by Russia.[66] This law would have seemed to require that Ukraine initiate any negotiations involving a Crimean annexation by Russia.

On 28 February 2014, Russian MP Sergey Mironov, along with certain other members of the Duma, introduced a bill to alter Russia's procedure for adding federal subjects. According to the bill, accession could be initiated by a subdivision of a country, provided that there is "absence of efficient sovereign state government in foreign state"; the request could be made either by subdivision bodies on their own or on the basis of a referendum held in the subdivision in accordance with corresponding national legislation.[67] The Venice Commission stated that the bill violated "in particular, the principles of territorial integrity, national sovereignty, non-intervention in the internal affairs of another state and pacta sunt servanda" and was therefore incompatible with international law.[68]

On 11 March 2014, both the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council adopted a declaration of independence, which stated their intent to declare independence and request full accession to Russia in case the pro-Russian answer received the most votes during the scheduled status referendum. The declaration directly referred to the Kosovo independence precedent, by which the Albanian-populated Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija declared independence from Russia's ally Serbia as the Republic of Kosovo in 2008—a unilateral action Russia staunchly opposed. Many analysts saw the Crimean declaration as an overt effort to pave the way for Crimea's annexation by Russia.[69]

Crimean authorities' stated plans to declare independence from Ukraine made the Mironov bill unnecessary. On 20 March 2014, two days after the treaty of accession was signed, the bill was withdrawn by its initiators.[70]

Crimean status referendum[edit]

On 27 February, following the takeover of its building, the Supreme Council of Crimea voted to hold a referendum on 25 May, with the initial question as to whether Crimea should upgrade its autonomy within Ukraine.[71] The referendum date was later moved from 25 May to 30 March.[72] A Ukrainian court declared the referendum to be illegal.[73]

On 4 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia was not considering annexing Crimea. He said of the peninsula that "only citizens themselves, in conditions of free expression of will and their security can determine their future".[74] Putin later acknowledged that in early March there were "secret opinion polls" held in Crimea, which, according to him, reported overwhelming popular support for Crimea's incorporation into Russia.[75]

On 6 March, the Supreme Council moved the referendum date to 16 March and changed its scope to ask a new question: whether Crimea should accede to Russia or restore the 1992 constitution within Ukraine, which the Ukrainian government had previously invalidated. This referendum, unlike one announced earlier, contained no option to maintain the status quo of governance under the 1998 constitution.[76]

On 14 March, the Crimean status referendum was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine,[77] and a day later, the Verkhovna Rada formally dissolved the Crimean parliament.[78]

The referendum was held despite the opposition from Kiev. Official results reported about 95% of participating voters in Crimea and Sevastopol were in favor of joining Russia.[79] The results of referendum are questioned,[80] Another report by Evgeny Bobrov, a member of the Russian President's Human Rights Council, suggested the official results were inflated and only 15% to 30% of Crimeans actually voted for the Russian option.[81][82][83]

The means by which the referendum was conducted were widely criticized by foreign governments and in the Ukrainian and international press, with reports that anyone holding a Russian passport regardless of residency in Crimea was allowed to vote. However, Russia defended the integrity of the voting process, and a group of European observers, principally from right-wing and far-right political parties aligned with Putin, said the referendum was conducted in a free and fair manner.[84][85][86]

Breakaway republic[edit]

On 17 March, following the official announcement of the referendum results, the Supreme Council of Crimea declared the formal independence of the Republic of Crimea, comprising the territories of both the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which was granted special status within the breakaway republic.[87] The Crimean parliament declared the "partial repeal" of Ukrainian laws and began nationalizing private and Ukrainian state property located on the Crimean Peninsula, including Ukrainian ports[88] and property of Chornomornaftogaz.[89] Parliament also formally requested that the Russian government admit the breakaway republic into Russia.[90] On same day, the de facto Supreme Council renamed itself the Crimean State Council,[91] declared the Russian ruble an official currency alongside the hryvnia,[92] and announced that Crimea would switch to Moscow Time (UTC+4) on 30 March.[93]

Putin officially recognized the Republic of Crimea by decree[94] and approved the admission of Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects of Russia.[95]

Accession treaty and immediate aftermath[edit]

The Treaty on Accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia was signed between representatives of the Republic of Crimea (including Sevastopol, with which the rest of Crimea briefly unified) and the Russian Federation on 18 March 2014 to lay out terms for the immediate admission of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects of Russia and part of the Russian Federation.[96][97] It was ratified by the Federal Assembly by March 21.[98]

On 19 March Putin submitted to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, a treaty of Crimea's reunification with Russia and a constitutional amendment on setting up two new constituent territories of the Russian Federation.[99] Russian Constitutional Court found that treaty is in compliance with Constitution of Russia. The court sat in an emergency session following a formal request by President Vladimir Putin to assess the constitutionality of the treaty.[100][101]

After the Russian Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of the treaty, the State Duma ratified it on 20 March.[102][103] The Duma also approved the draft federal constitutional law admitting Crimea and Sevastopol and establishing them as federal subjects.[104][105] A Just Russia's Ilya Ponomarev was the only State Duma member to vote against the measures. A day later, the treaty itself and the required amendment to article 65 of the Russian Constitution (which lists the federal subjects of Russia) were ratified by the Federation Council[106] and almost immediately signed into law by Putin.[107] Crimea's admission to the Russian Federation was considered retroactive to 18 March, when Putin and Crimean leaders signed the draft treaty.[108]

On 24 March, Ukraine ordered the full withdrawal of all of its armed forces from Crimea.[109] The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported about half of Ukraine's troops in Crimea defected to Russia.[110][111]

On 27 March, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution, which declared the Crimean referendum and subsequent status change invalid, by a vote of 100 to 11, with 58 abstentions and 24 absent.[112][113]

Crimea and Sevastopol switched to Moscow Time at the end of March.[114][115]

On 2 April, Russia formally denounced the 2010 Kharkiv Pact and Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet.[116] Putin cited "the accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia" and resulting "practical end of renting relationships" as his reason for the denunciation.[117] On the same day, he signed a decree formally rehabilitating the Crimean Tatars, who were ousted from their lands in 1944, and the Armenian, German, Greek, and Bulgarian minority communities in the region that Stalin also ordered removed in the 1940s.

On 11 April, the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and City Charter of Sevastopol were adopted,[118] and on same day, the new federal subjects were enumerated in a newly published revision of the Russian Constitution.[119]

Federal Law on Ratifying the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on Admitting to the Russian Federation the Republic of Crimea and Establishing within the Russian Federation New Constituent Entities.
Federal Constitutional Law on Admitting to the Russian Federation the Republic of Crimea and Establishing within the Russian Federation the New Constituent Entities of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Federal Importance Sevastopol.

Transition and aftermath[edit]

The number of tourists visiting Crimea in the 2014 season is expected to be lower than in the previous years due to worries about the political situation.[120] The Crimean government members hope that Russian tourists will flow in.[121] The Russian government is planning to promote Crimea as a resort and provide subsidized holidays to the peninsula for children and state workers.[122]

The Sofia news agency Novinite claims that according to the German newspaper Die Welt, the annexation of Crimea is economically disadvantageous for the Russian Federation. Russia will have to spend billions of euros a year to pay salaries and pensions. Moreover, Russia will have to undertake costly projects to connect Crimea to the Russian water supply and power system because Crimea has no land connection to Russia and at present gets water, gas and electricity from mainland Ukraine. This will require building a bridge and a pipeline across the Kerch Strait. Also, Novinite claims that a Ukrainian expert told Die Welt that Crimea "will not be able to attract tourists".[123]

The Russian business newspaper Kommersant expresses an opinion that Russia will not acquire anything economically from "accessing" Crimea, which is not very developed industrially, having just a few big factories, and whose yearly gross product is only $4 billion. The newspaper also says that everything from Russia will have to be delivered by sea, higher costs of transportation will result in higher prices for everything, and in order to avoid a decline in living standards Russia will have to subsidize Crimean people for a few months. In total, Kommersant estimates the costs of integrating Crimea into Russia in $30 billion over the next decade, i.e. $3 billion per year.[124]

On the other hand western oil experts estimate that Russia's seizing of Crimea, and the associated control of an area of Black Sea more than three times its land area gives it access to oil and gas reserves potentially worth trillions of dollars. It also deprives Ukraine of its chances of energy independence. Most immediately however, analysts say, Moscow's acquisition may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. It would also allow Russia to avoid building in Turkish territorial waters, which was necessary in the original route in order to avoid Ukrainian territory.[125][126]

Russian/Chechen businessman Ruslan Baisarov announced he is ready to invest 12 billion rubles into the construction of a modern sea resort in Crimea, which is expected to create about 1,300 jobs. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of Chechnya, said that other Chechen businessmen are planning to invest into Crimea as well.[127]

The Russian Federal Service for Communications (Roskomnadzor) warned about a transition period as Russian operators have to change the numbering capacity and subscribers. Country code will be replaced from the Ukrainian +380 to Russian +7. Codes in Crimea start with 65, but in the area of "7" the 6 is given to Kazakhstan which shares former Soviet Union +7 with Russia, so city codes have to change. The regulator assigned 869 dialing code to Sevastopol and the rest of the peninsula received a 365 code.[128] At the time of the unification with Russia, telephone operators and Internet service providers in Crimea and Sevastopol are connected to the outside world through the territory of Ukraine.[129] Minister of Communications of Russia, Nikolai Nikiforov announced on his Twitter account that postal codes in Crimea will now have six-figures: to the existing five-digit number the number two will be added at the beginning. For example, the Simferopol postal code 95000 will become 295000.[130]

Regarding Crimea's borders, the head of Russian Federal Agency for the Development of the State Border Facilities (Rosgranitsa) Konstantin Busygin, who was speaking at a meeting led by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea said the Russian state border in the north of Crimea which, according to his claims, now forms part of the Russian-Ukrainian border, will be fully equipped with necessary facilities.[131] In the area that now forms the border between Crimea and Ukraine mining the salt lake inlets from the sea that constitute the natural borders, and in the spit of land left over stretches of no-man's-land with wire on either side was created.[132] On early June that year Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a Government resolution №961[133] dated 5 June 2014 establishing air, sea, road and railway checkpoints. The adopted decisions create a legal basis for the functioning of a checkpoint system at the Russian state border in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol.[134]

In the year following the annexation, armed men seized various Crimean businesses, including banks, hotels, shipyards, farms, gas stations, a bakery, a dairy, and Yalta Film Studio.[135][136][137]

Human rights situation[edit]

On 9 May 2014 the new "anti-extremist" amendment to the Criminal Code of Russia, passed in December 2013, came into force. Article 280.1 designated incitement of violation of territorial integrity of the Russian Federation[138] (incl. calls for secession of Crimea from Russia[139]) as a criminal offence in Russia, punishable by a fine of 300 thousand roubles or imprisonment up to 3 years. If such statements are made in public media or the internet, the punishment could be obligatory works up to 480 hours or imprisonment up to five years.[138]

Following the annexation of Crimea, according to report released on the Russian government run President of Russia's Council on Civil Society and Human Rights website, Tatars who were opposed to Russian rule have been persecuted, Russian law restricting freedom of speech has been imposed, and the new pro-Russian authorities "liquidated" the Kiev Patriarchate Orthodox church on the peninsula.[82]

After the annexation, on May 16 the new Russian authorities of Crimea issued a ban on the annual commemorations of the anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin in 1944, citing "possibility of provocation by extremists" as a reason.[140] Previously, when Crimea was controlled by Ukraine, these commemorations had taken place every year.The pro-Russian Crimean authorities also banned Mustafa Jemilev, a human rights activist, Soviet dissent, member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars from entering Crimea.[141] Additionally, Mejlis reported, that officers of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) raided Tatar homes in the same week, on the pretense of "suspicion of terrorist activity".[142] The Tatar community eventually did hold commemorative rallies in defiance of the ban.[141][142] In response Russian authorities flew helicopters over the rallies in an attempt to disrupt them.[143]

Ukrainian response[edit]

Immediately after the treaty of accession was signed in March, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Provisional Principal of Russia in Ukraine to present note verbale of protest against Russia's recognition of the Republic of Crimea and its subsequent annexation.[144] Two days later, the Verkhovna Rada condemned the treaty[145] and called Russia's actions "a gross violation of international law". The Rada called on the international community to avoid recognition of the "so-called Republic of Crimea" or the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia as new federal subjects.

On 15 April 2014, the Verkhovna Rada declared the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to be under "provisional occupation" by the Russian military.[146] The territories were also deemed "inalienable parts of Ukraine" subject to Ukrainian law. Among other things, the special law approved by the Rada restricted foreign citizens' movements to and from the Crimean Peninsula and forbade certain types of entrepreneurship.[147] The law also forbade activity of government bodies formed in violation of Ukrainian law and designated their acts as null and void. The voting rights of Crimea in national Ukrainian elections were also suspended.[148] The law had little to no actual effect in Crimea itself due to the mutual non-recognition between Kiev and Simferopol.

International response[edit]

United Nations Resolutions[edit]

UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution condemning the 2014 Crimean referendum.
  Voted in favor of the resolution
  Vetoed the resolution
UN General Assembly vote on the resolution condemning the 2014 Crimean referendum.
  In favor of considering the referendum illegal
  Against adopting the resolution
  Absent when the vote took place

Security Council Resolution[edit]

On 15 March 2014 a U.S.-sponsored resolution was put forward to vote in the UN Security Council to reaffirm council's commitment to Ukraine's "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity." A total of 13 council members voted in favour of the resolution, China abstained, while Russia vetoed the U.N. resolution declaring Crimean referendum, 2014, on the future of Crimean Peninsula, as illegal.[149]

General Assembly Resolution[edit]

On 27 March 2014, The UN General Assembly approved a resolution[150] describing the referendum leading to annexation of Crimea by Russia as illegal. The draft resolution, which was titled 'Territorial integrity of Ukraine' was co-sponsored by Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and the US. It affirmed council's commitment to the "sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders." The resolution tried to underscore that the March 16 referendum held in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol has no validity and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol. The resolution got 100 votes in its favor, while 11 nations voted against and 58 countries abstained from the vote. The resolution was non-binding and the vote was largely symbolic.[151]


The vast majority of the international community has not recognized the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia. Most nations located in North America, Central America, Europe, Oceania, Africa, as well as non-former-Soviet-Union Asia have openly rejected the referendum and the accession, and instead consider Crimea and Sevastopol to be administrative divisions of Ukraine. The remainder have largely remained neutral. The vote on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 (supporting the position that Crimea and Sevastopol remain part of Ukraine) was 100 to 11 in favor, with 58 states abstaining and a further 24 of the 193 member states not voting through being absent when the vote took place. The 100 states voting in favor represented about 34% of the world's population, the 11 against represented about 4.5%, the 58 abstentions represented about 58%, and the 24 absents represented about 3.5%.

Several members of the United Nations have made statements about their recognition of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects of Russia:

The position of Belarus is vague: it includes statements made by Alexander Lukashenko that "Ukraine should remain an integral, indivisible, non-aligned state" and "As for Crimea, I do not like it when the integrity and independence of a country are broken", on the one hand, and "Today Crimea is part of the Russian Federation. No matter whether you recognize it or not, the fact remains." and "Whether Crimea will be recognized as a region of the Russian Federation de-jure does not really matter", on the other hand.[158]

Three non-UN member states recognized the results of the referendum: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. A fourth, Transnistria, sent a request on 18 March 2014 to join the Russian Federation following the Crimean example and in compliance with the Admission Law provisions.[159][160][161] On 16 April 2014 Transnistria urged Russia and the United Nations to recognize its independence.[162] Putin is aware of Transnistria's recognition request, according to Dmitry Peskov.[163]


Russian opposition activist and chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Ukrainian MP Lesya Orobets (Batkivshchyna), former foreign minister of the Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada John Baird all compared Russia's actions to Nazi Germany's policy before the start of World War II, after the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.[164][165][166][167][168] German Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier all stated, that such comparisons are unacceptable.[169] However Chancellor Merkel also said "The so-called referendum…, the declaration of independence …, and the absorption into the Russian Federation (were), in our firm opinion,…against international law"[170] and that it was "shameful" for Russia to compare the independence of Kosovo with the referendum for independence in Crimea.[171]

British prime minister David Cameron said "No amount of sham and perverse democratic process or skewed historical references can make up for the fact that this is an incursion into a sovereign state and a land grab of part of its territory with no respect for the law of that country or for international law."[172]

President Obama commented, "the Crimean 'referendum,' which violates the Ukrainian constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community."[173]

The European Council and the European Commission made the joint statement "The European Union does neither recognise the illegal and illegitimate referendum in Crimea nor its outcome."[174]

Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt called Russia's actions "perfectly understandable", and considers sanctions being imposed by the US and EU "foolish".[175] Matthias Platzeck, the former Minister-President of Brandenburg and party chairman of the SDP, suggested that "the annexation of Crimea needs to be settled legally to make it acceptable for everyone".[176]

Czech President Miloš Zeman said: "Even though I understand the interests of Crimea’s Russian-speaking majority, which was annexed to Ukraine by Khrushchev, we have our experience with the 1968 Russian military invasion."[177]

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has defended the referendum that led to Crimea's annexation by Russia: "While Crimea had previously been joined to Ukraine [in 1954] based on the Soviet laws, which means [Communist] party laws, without asking the people, now the people themselves have decided to correct that mistake."[178]


Putin is joking: "To be honest, they are those very same ‘polite people’ – the ones in camouflage gear, with semi-automatic rifles strapped to their waists. And their last names are a bit odd too. The names you just mentioned, for example: Kovalchuk, Rotenberg, Timchenko – all typical “moskal" names. I think I'd be wise to keep my distance from them."[179]

Sanctions were imposed to prevent number of Russian and Crimean officials and politicians to travel to Canada, the United States, and the European Union.

Japan announced milder sanctions than the US and EU. These include suspension of talks relating to military, space, investment, and visa requirements.[180]

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė praised the U.S.'s decision to sanction Russia, saying Obama had set an example.[181]

In response to the sanctions introduced by the U.S. and EU, the Russian Duma unanimously passed a resolution asking for all members of the Duma to be included on the sanctions list.[182] Head of the opposition A Just Russia party Sergei Mironov said he was proud of being included on the sanctions list, "It is with pride that I have found myself on the black list, this means they have noticed my stance on Crimea."[182]

Three days after the lists were published, the Russian Foreign Ministry published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, which consisted of 10 names, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator John McCain, and two advisers to President Obama.[183] Several of those sanctioned responded with pride at their inclusion on the list, including John Boehner who, through his spokesperson Michael Steel, said, "The Speaker is proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin's aggression.";[184][185] John McCain who tweeted, "I'm proud to be sanctioned by Putin - I'll never cease my efforts & dedication to freedom & independence of Ukraine, which includes Crimea.";[181][184][185] Bob Menendez;[184][185] Dan Coats;[181][184][185][186] Mary Landrieu[186] and Harry Reid.[186]

According to the Financial Times on Friday, 21 March 2014, "As recently as the start of the week, some of Moscow's financial elite were blasé about the prospect of sanctions. But Russia's businessmen were no longer smiling by [… the end of it] after expanded US sanctions rippled through financial markets hitting the business interests of some of the country's richest people."[187] The Americans centered on the heart of Moscow's leadership,[188] though the EU initial list shied from targeting Putin's inner circle.[189] As ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's downgraded Russian credit outlook,[190] Novatek, Russian second-largest gas producer, saw $2.5bn in market value wiped out when its shares sank by nearly 10%, rendering Putin's close friend Gennady Timchenko, who has a 23% stake in the company, $575m poorer.[187] "I do hope that there is some serious diplomatic activity going on behind the scenes," said one Russian banker quoted by the newspaper,[191] though others were more sanguine on the question of whether the sanctions would have any enduring effect[190]—"What has been announced so far is really nothing. It's purely cosmetic," said a French banker based in Moscow[192]—and Russians, top and bottom, seemed defiant.[193] The official Russian response was mixed.[194]

Cartographic response[edit]

  • National Geographic Society stated, that their policy is "to portray current reality" and "Crimea, if it is formally annexed by Russia, would be shaded gray", but also further remarked that this step does not suggest recognizing legitimacy of such.[195] As of April 2014 Crimea is still displayed as part of Ukraine.[196]
  • Google Maps will paint Crimea as disputed territory for most of visitors.[196] For Russian and Ukrainian versions of website Crimea will be marked as belonging to corresponding country (Russia or Ukraine respectively).[196][197] Google stated, that it "work with sources to get the best interpretation of the border or claim lines".[198]
  • Yandex Maps displays Crimea according to official position of user's country. Users visiting from Russia will see Crimea displayed as Russian territory. Users visiting or from Crimea will see peninsula as belonging to corresponding country (Ukraine or Russia). Users visiting from Ukraine will see Crimea as Ukrainian and all other users (from other countries) will see Crimea as Russian territory.[196] According to official statement, the company works with users from different countries and "displays reality that surrounds them".[199]
  • Bing Maps,[200] OpenStreetMap and HERE display Crimea as belonging to Ukraine.[196] In particular, Open Street Map requested its users to refrain from editing borders and administrative relations of subdivisions located in Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol until 31 May 2014.[196] On 5 June 2014 OpenStreetMap switched to a territorial dispute option, displaying Crimea as a disputed territory belonging to both countries.[201]
  • Mail.Ru maps display Crimea as part of Russia[196][202]

See also[edit]


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  5. ^ "RPT-INSIGHT-How the separatists delivered Crimea to Moscow". Reuters. March 13, 2014. Only a week after gunmen planted the Russian flag on the local parliament, Aksyonov and his allies held another vote and declared parliament was appealing to Putin to annex Crimea 
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