The Crimea crisis has taken over news reports and airwaves because for the last couple of days it has felt like there was a new age war being fought in Europe over the Penninsula formerly administered by Ukraine. The region is home to many ethnic Russians and a small group of Ukrainians and Crimean Tartars and if the recentmost pro-Russian referendum vote for Crimea is to be taken seriously, then it could soon unravel political conflicts over Russia’s other former Soviet states.
The Crimean Federal District and the Russian Federation recently took over this administration role after much heckling, believing the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, following the Ukraine Revolution, to have been politically motivated by the US and the EU. A referendum was then presented to the people of Crimea, putting the question of joining the Russian Federation before them.
With a very high turnout (83 percent) and a 96 percent in the affirmative votes result, the Crimean Parliament declared independence from Ukraine, eventually signing a treaty of accession with Russia. This independence movement has been criticised by many, such as the EU, the US, the UN, Ukrainian officials, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, stating that it does not abide by international law and Ukraine’s constitution, and thus, according to the UN, specifically, illegal.
International reaction have been negative on certain levels to the movement, with only a handful of countries accepting the referendum vote – Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, and Zimbabwe, being amongst them. Meanwhile, dissenters in Russia are beginning to be regarded as traitors to their own soil.
The crisis has also affected business in Russia, with many Russian tycoons losing financial interests and even bigwigs like McDonalds shuttering down plenty of its shops across the region and re-evaluating business opportunities. Smaller Russian foodshops with presence in Ukraine were closed down by the government as well, and Russia’s credit ratings were also downgraded by Standard & Poor’s.
Yanukovych has long been in favour of moving Ukraine closer to Russia, and turned down some trade deals for that too. The last 200 years, for the most part, has seen Russia controlling much of Crimea, and the transfer of power to Ukraine, following the Second World War has made many Russians livid over the years. The only counterargument to this theory has been put forward by the Crimean Tatars that once upon a time, they were the majority in Crimea, and this has reduced largely because of deportation carried out by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944 because of apparent collaboration with Nazi invaders during WWII.
The fall of the Soviet Union has seen many Tatars return to their land once more and the presently standing 12 percent of the population is expected to increase, as are the continuous tensions with the ethnic Russians over land rights. The legacy of the Cold War has been just as brutal as Stalin’s aggression because millions of Russians could no longer belong in their own country, with so many annexations and so many divisions, so the Crimean Tartars need to be more understanding of the plight here for the Russians and opt to co-operate on political issues in their country instead.
Vladimir Putin’s speech after the referendum vote clearly highlighted the years of resentment felt by Kremlin over post-Second World War injustice, saying that there is no room for any patience for such endeavours after the Cold War anymore, and that there are no plans to divide and conquer Ukraine. Thunderous applause and standing ovations greeted Putin’s speech, and it was one of the most pivotal elements of his 14-year long presidential rule.
Putin’s main course of action is the restoration of Russia following the humiliating defeat the country faced during the Cold War. So although the country remains largely isolated because of its choices over Crimea, not much damage has been done to its reputation despite the repeated sanctions against it, and being excluded from the recent-most Group 8 meetings. This is because most countries have chosen to take the neutral course of action in response to the crisis and unanimously declared that the conflict should be solved on a political level and escalation of any violence should immediately be stopped.