After overthrowing pro-Russian President Yanukovych and before recognizing the “republics” of Donbass, Putin annexed the peninsula in 2014, through a referendum without international recognition. A prelude to the war in Ukraine The vast majority of the international community continues to consider Crimea as Ukrainian territory, nine years later, with its annexation, President Vladimir Putin began to carve up the Ukrainian territory.
On March 18, 2014, Putin signed the treaty “Reintegration of Crimea into the Russian Federation”. The strategic peninsula on the Black Sea was part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution, having belonged to the Ottoman Empire for centuries.
Today, the reintegration of Crimea into Ukraine is one of Kiev’s demands for possible negotiations to end the conflict that began with the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory on February 24, 2022 under the pretext of demilitarization and “denazification” of the neighboring country.
The alleged “reintegration” came after the invasion of the peninsula by Russian forces in February 2014 – following the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych – and a hasty “referendum” orchestrated by the Russian authorities, which ended with support from the 96.77% for the annexation of Crimea, a result not recognized by the international community.
The Russian leader ratified the annexation law on March 21 of the same year. The Kremlin’s “recipe” – of invasion, lightning referendum and annexation – was repeated in September 2022 after the occupation of parts of the Ukrainian provinces of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Lugansk.
Crimea on the Russian War Agenda
Putin marked the ninth anniversary of the annexation on Saturday (March 18) with a surprise visit to Crimea. In the port city of Sevastopol, he visited a newly opened children’s art school, accompanied by the local governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, as shown on Russian state television.
The day before, the leader had commented, in a videoconference on the socio-economic development of the peninsula, that “obviously security problems are a priority for Crimea and Sevastopol, especially today” – with the Russian war campaign in Ukraine just around the corner – and that your government will do everything to prevent such threats.
Speaking to the Moscow-imposed leader of Crimea, Sergei Axionov, the Kremlin head said nine years ago, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol made a “final and unequivocal historic decision: to rejoin one big country “.
Since its invasion on February 24, 2022, Russia has managed to create a land corridor between Donbass in eastern Ukraine and Crimea in the south, which needs water resources to sustain itself. The Azov Sea became a Russian internal sea, ensuring the safety of the Crimea, where a line of fortifications was also created.
Over the past 13 months, however, the peninsula has been the target of separate attacks, blamed on Ukraine. In August, there was a sabotage operation against a Russian army arsenal and suspicious explosions at an airport.
On 8 October, the Crimean Bridge, inaugurated by Putin himself to connect the occupied area with Russian territory, was heavily damaged in an attack, attributed by Moscow to Kiev, but not claimed. On Friday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin assured that traffic will soon be reopened to trucks and that the second railway line of the bridge will be operational before July.
International repudiation of Russian annexations and “referendums”
Ukraine has insisted that sooner or later it will liberate the occupied territory. In August 2021, Kiev launched the Crimean Platform, which gathers international support for the recovery of the peninsula. In 2023, the institution urged Russia to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw its troops from occupied territories.
On Thursday, the Turkish foreign ministry reiterated that it recognized Russia’s “illegal annexation” of Crimea following “an illegitimate referendum held in violation of international law”. The situation of the Crimean Tatar Turks, who are the territory’s original population, is a Turkish priority, he said.
“Turkey will continue to support our Crimean Tatar compatriots in their historical homeland, preserving their identity and ensuring that they live in security and peace,” the diplomacy headquarters in Ankara added. Other countries, such as Lithuania, have issued statements condemning the annexation of Crimea.
On February 26, on the occasion of the beginning of the invasion of Ukrainian territory, the US State Department expressed its position on the issue in a brief note: “The United States does not and will never recognize the alleged annexation of the from Russia. Crimea is from Ukraine”.
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