MOSCOW, March 07, 23:17 /ITAR-TASS/. The decision of Crimea’s parliament for the Autonomous Ukrainian Republic to secede from Ukraine, join Russia and hold a referendum on the issue has become an expected result of poor relations between Crimea and Kiev in independent Ukraine, experts polled by the Itar-Tass Political Analysis Center said.
The Supreme Council of Crimea - a Ukrainian autonomy where Russians constitute a majority - made the decision on Friday. The referendum is to be held March 16.
The chief editor of the East agency Ostkraft, Stanislav Stremidlovsky, was optimistic about the fact that Crimea’s Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities were set to jointly determine Crimea’s fate.
“Whatever the result of the vote, all three parts of the Crimean people will accept its results. It means Crimea will be united, there will be no split in society. Unity will become the winning argument for Kiev, the West and us,” Stremidlovsky said.
He said the West would not recognize the results of the referendum anyway because it would be out of line with its idea of Crimea’s future. “But when the public opinion of Crimea is expressed in the plebiscite, it will be impossible to disregard it,” the expert said.
Ukraine has been in political turmoil since its legitimate president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted in a violent uprising in February. He fled Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, appointed an interim head of state, set early presidential elections and approved a new government, which Crimea and Russia do not recognize.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday the recent developments in Ukraine were “an anti-constitutional coup.” Putin said Yanukovich remained the only legitimate Ukrainian president and added that Ukraine's parliament was “partially” legitimate.
Alexei Zudin, a member of the expert council of the Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, said the Crimean parliament’s decision reflects the new political reality that started emerging after forces with a clearly anti-Crimean and anti-Russian position seized power in Kiev.
“The Crimean authorities saw that the dialogue with the illegitimate Kiev authorities had no future, especially after the decision to detain representatives of the Crimean authorities,” Zudin said.
“The decision to hold the referendum earlier is also understandable: its protraction would allow anti-Crimean and anti-Russian forces to try to disrupt its holding,” he said.
Zudin said Russia has always provided moral and political support to friendly forces in Crimea. “Russia is also interested in retaining its military presence on the peninsula, which has been in place for several hundred years. So Russia will hardly say ‘no’ if the government and people of Crimea make a legitimate decision to join Russia,” he said.
Russia leases from Ukraine a naval base in Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol and has its Black Sea Fleet deployed there. During Yanukovich’s presidency, which started in 2010, Moscow and Kiev agreed to extend Russia’s military presence in Crimea until 2042 - a deal the then Ukrainian opposition sharply criticized.
Zudin specially pointed to the fact that the current situation had not emerged out of nothing, adding that it was a consequence of some 25 years of negative relations between Kiev and Crimea, which had resulted in the peninsula’s economic degradation.
The dean of the faculty of world economy and international affairs at the Russian national research university Higher School of Economics, Sergey Karaganov, said: “My article in the Financial Times entitled ‘Russia needs to defend its interests with an iron fist’ has got more than 80 percent of positive responses from Western readers.”
It is not absolutely clear to what extent Crimea will be interesting to Russia as its constituent member, Karaganov said. It is quite likely, he said, that Crimea as an independent republic would even be more beneficial for Russia than Crimea making part of Russia.
“Both Crimea and Russia will surely have to hear threats and hysteria,” Alexei Mukhin, the head of the Political Information Center, said.
“But from whatever angle you look at it, it was the ‘Kosovo precedent’ that opened this Pandora’s box: a weakness once displayed by Europeans, a concession to the United States, was fatal: Kosovo turned into a semi-criminal hub,” he said.
Mukhin said the Crimean situation resembled the South Ossetian problem in 2008.
Russia and Georgia cut off diplomatic ties after Russia recognized as independent two Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The recognition followed Georgia's attack on South Ossetia that entailed Russia's peacemaking operation in August 2008.
“The introduction of such a notion as the phenomenon of [former Georgian President Mikhail] Saakashvili is relevant: the loss of territories by the leadership of a country that decided to resort to aggression,” Mukhin said.
He said Crimeans may well be understood as “reports were running recently at a rather high level in Kiev and around it that the new leadership of the country, in order to justify the recognition of its legitimacy in the West, planned to almost go as far as join NATO, deploy American missile defense elements on their territory or even agree to all of the International Monetary Fund’s enslaving terms.”
Vladimir Zharikhin, a deputy director of the CIS Institute, told Itar-Tass World Service that “the extreme actions of Crimean deputies are conditioned by extreme actions of the new Kiev authorities.”
“This is a final warning to Kiev. They must understand that the country could be split if they keep celebrating victory while forgetting about the people’s interests.”
The political scientist said the best option for Kiev would be to return to the February 21 agreement between the legitimate Ukrainian authorities led by Yanukovich and the opposition and to form a government of people’s trust.