KIEV, October 29. /TASS/. The Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] has opened a criminal case against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who visited Crimea in September this year, a deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada human rights committee said Thursday.
"Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr. Berlusconi on Ukrainian territory. Regardless of the status, we will bring to account everyone, and Mr. Berlusconi is not an exception," the Unian news agency quoted Georgy Logvinsky as saying.
The ex-Italian premier is accused of "illegally crossing the Ukrainian state border." "Such actions are criminally punishable by 5 to 8 years in prison," Logvinsky said.
In early September, on his own initiative, the leader of the Italian political party Forza Italia, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi paid a private visit to Crimea, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier, the Security Service of Ukraine banned entry to Ukraine to Berlusconi for three years.
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 as a gift.
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.