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WASHINGTON, July 16. /TASS/. The US Department of State on Thursday recommended American nationals to postpone all travels to Crimea and east Ukraine.
"The Department of State warns US citizens to defer all travel to Crimea and the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and recommends those US citizens currently living in or visiting these regions to depart," the statement said.
"This supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated January 5 to provide updated information on the security situation in southern and eastern Ukraine," it said.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18, 2014.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Crimea had joined the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it reunified with Russia after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.
According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people; Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.
Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems has been actively underway since Crimea acceded to the Russian Federation.
After the coup in Ukraine in February 2014, mass protests soon erupted in Ukraine’s southeast, where local residents, mostly Russian speakers, did not recognize the coup-imposed authorities and formed militia.
In response, Kiev in April 2014 announced the start of an antiterrorism operation in east Ukraine, which involved the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry’s National Guard and volunteer battalions made up of Euromaidan activists.
Massive shelling of residential neighborhoods has killed thousands and led to a humanitarian disaster in the area.