RUSSIA’S INVASION OF CRIMEA– A PRIMER
Crimea is an autonomous republic within the territory of Ukraine, recognized as such by Russia and the international community. The Russian Black Sea fleet is stationed on the territory of Crimea under a long term lease and provides Russia it’s only warm water military port. The Crimean Black Sea shelf is extremely rich in oil and gas reserves.
Under the guise of protecting ethnic Russians, Russian troops capture Crimea’s Parliament and install by force a new “leader” of the Crimea Parliament and declare a referendum to succeed from Ukraine. Crimea is overtaken with 22,000 Russian troops who surround Ukrainian military bases and blockade Ukraine’s Black Sea fleet. As Crimea is dependent on Ukraine for gas, water and electricity, Russian soldiers crossed the Crimean border into Ukraine to take-over a natural gas terminal.
On March 15, 2014, the United Nations Security Council convened for the seventh time to address the urgent crisis in Ukraine. The UN Security Council voted on a resolution on Ukraine, but the resolution was vetoed by Russia. The resolution grounded in principles that provide the foundation for international stability and law: Article 2 of the UN Charter; the prohibition on the use of force to acquire territory; and respect for the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of member states. These are principles that Russia agrees with and defends vigorously all around the world — except, it seems, in circumstances that involve Russia.
The international community, including the G7, European Council andthe European Commission, among others:
- call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine.
- Declares that the March 16 Crimean referendum would have no legal effect and would not be recognized. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force.
- Russian annexation of Crimea would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter; Russia’s commitments under the Helsinki Final Act; its obligations to Ukraine under its 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership; the Russia-Ukraine 1997 basing agreement; and its commitments under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 where Ukraine gave-up its large nuclear arsenal in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, US and UK.
As stated by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power “Crimea is part of Ukraine today; it will be part of Ukraine tomorrow; it will be part of Ukraine next week; it will be part of Ukraine unless and until its status is changed in accordance with Ukrainian and international law.”
Other key facts:
- Referendum Question (two choices – status quo is not an option): (1) union with Russia, or (2) a return to the 1992 constitution under which Crimea was an autonomous region within Ukraine. That choice too leads to annexation since the installed local government has already asked to become part of the Russian federation.
- Ukrainian TV and media blocked and replaced by Russian state TV.
- International Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (including Canadian observers) refused entry into Crimea.
- UN envoy forced to leave Crimea under physical threat.
- Crimea voted in 1991 to support the Ukrainian Parliament’s declaration of independence (92.3% of all Ukrainians voted “yes”).