MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. An earlier statement made by a Pentagon official that the United States is unable to prevent Ukrainian forces from attacking Crimea signals ‘a serious shift in the [American] stance,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.
"There was a response from an anonymous Pentagon representative, and this is an absolute fact, that ‘we cannot prohibit the Ukrainian armed forces from using its military on territory which we believe to be the territory of Ukraine.’ This is a serious shift in their stance," Lavrov said in an interview with the Bolshaya Igra (The Great Game) program on Russia’s Channel One.
According to Lavrov, the US authorities, in private talks, previously acknowledged the choice of Crimean residents to join Russia.
"We held bilateral talks with [former US Secretary of State] John Kerry and during these lengthy negotiations he said that they understood perfectly that the choice of the people of Crimea was undoubtedly sincere, but we should somehow formalize it one more time, ‘hold another referendum, inviting the OSCE, UN representatives and someone else, because the previous one was organized too hastily’," Lavrov said.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russian, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities that seized power amid riots during the illegitimate coup of February 2014 in Ukraine.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.7% 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 treaties on March 18, 2014. The documents were ratified by Russia’s Federal Assembly, or bicameral parliament, on March 21.
Despite the overwhelming results of the referendum, Ukraine still refuses to recognize Crimea as part of Russia.
Russia’s special military operation
On February 21, President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was recognizing the sovereignty of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Russia signed agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance with their leaders. Moscow recognized the Donbass republics in accordance with the DPR and LPR constitutions within the boundaries of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions as of the beginning of 2014.
Russian President Putin announced on February 24 that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics for assistance, he had decided to carry out a special military operation in Ukraine. The DPR and the LPR launched an operation to liberate their territories under Kiev’s control.
From September 23 to September 27, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic as well as the Kherson Region and the Zaporozhye Region held a referendum where the majority of voters opted to join Russia.
On September 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the DPR, the LPR, and the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions signed treaties on their accession to Russia. Later, the State Duma and the Federation Council (the lower and upper houses of Russia’s parliament) approved legislation on ratifying these treaties, as well as federal constitutional laws on the accession of the four regions to Russia.