How Russia initiates conflicts in the region
Here is the summary of the events and trends related to the situation in Ukraine during the last two months.
Crimea: 7 years under Russian occupation
Seven years ago, on 16 March 2014, Russia tried to legitimize its occupation of Crimea by an illegitimate “referendum” held under control of its troops – a strategy tested in Moldova and Georgia, and repeated in Donbas.
Russia’s landgrab was overwhelmingly rejected by the developed world: only 11 out of 169 UN members supported the occupation of Crimea: Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Held while Russian troops and special services controlled all the critical infrastructure and mass media of the peninsula, its reported outcomes included pearls such as “123% voting in favor of joining Russia” in Sevastopol.
This year, the European Court of Human Rights recognized that Russia effectively controlled (e.g. was occupying) Crimea already on 27 February 2014, for the first time establishing in court that Russia first occupied Crimea and then staged a so-called “referendum,” not the other way around. Today, it is estimated that there are 32,500 Russian occupation troops in Crimea. But already in 2016, Russia was recognized as an occupying force in Crimea by the UN.
Russia’s plans to break off half of Ukraine after the Crimean landgrab never materialized. Ukrainian civil society in south-eastern Ukraine rejected the “Russian spring” and mobilized to fight off the camouflaged invasion in eastern Ukraine. However, two Russian proxy “republics” did manage to secure a grip there. A frozen conflict there, marked by its own “referendums,” lingers to this day in what has been called a “protracted war for independence.” It has left 13,000 dead.
Under Russian rule, the free press and civil freedoms in Crimea have been decimated. The latest Freedom House rating puts occupied Crimea next to Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Crimean Tatars (the indigenous minority of the peninsula), believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Muslims, Ukrainian activists have come under a crackdown. Russia has taken scores of Ukrainian political prisoners in Crimea, most of whom are Crimean Tatar activists who have shown remarkable solidarity in the face of repressions (more here: Russia comes for Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea once again.)
Another toll of the military occupation is the dessication of the already arid peninsula, where in many places residents have tap water for only six hours a day:
- Crimea. Dehydration: A film exposing Russia’s colonial policy and the desiccation of the occupied peninsula
This year, Ukraine has taken a pro-active position for the deoccupation of Crimea by initiating the Crimean Platform – it is reportedly already asking Russia nervous:
- Ukraine “satisfied” as Russia gets nervous about Crimean Platform.
- Crimean Platform sets the scene for deoccupation, all UN members should join – Ukrainian expert at UNSC
The only way to curb Russia’s aggression and end the suffering of Crimeans is to unite efforts to deoccupy Crimea and all other occupied territories. #StopRussianAggresion #CrimeaIsUkraine