MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. March 18, 2022 marks eight years since the treaty on the accession of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation was signed.
Crisis of power in Ukraine
In November 2013, a political crisis began in Ukraine, triggered by Kiev’s refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Supporters of the Euro-integration course demanded the resignation of the president and the government. The tide of unrest that kicked off in Kiev promptly spilled over to other Ukrainian cities and regions. However, authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where the Russian-speaking population constitutes the majority, refused to support the opposition. On February 4, 2014 the Presidium of the Supreme Council initiated holding a referendum on the peninsula's status.
On February 22, a government coup propelled to power the supporters of Euromaidan protests. President Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee the country. The next day, the Ukrainian parliament voted for the cancellation of the law granting Russian the status of a regional language in some regions of the country. Although it did not take effect, the decision sparked mass protests by Russian speakers, first and foremost in the southeast of Ukraine, and also in Crimea.
Protests in Crimea
On February 23, 2014 pro-Russian residents in Crimea, reluctant to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities, started their own open-ended protest in front of the autonomy’s legislature to demand Crimea’s separation from Ukraine. On February 26 the supporters of new Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian residents demanding secession from Ukraine gathered in the main square of the peninsula’s capital Simferopol. The ensuing unrest upset the operation of the Crimean parliament. Clashes left two dead and more than 30 others injured.
On February 27, after the parliament building was retaken by the authorities the legislators sacked the old government and appointed Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of the local movement Russian Unity as Crimea’s new prime minister.
Amid continuing unrest in Crimea the local legislature set a date for holding a referendum on Crimea’s status — May 25 of the same year.
On March 1, Aksyonov asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for assistance in maintaining peace and calm in the peninsula. As tensions kept soaring, a decision was made to hold the referendum much earlier, on March 30. On the same day the upper house of Russia’s parliament — the Federation Council — empowered the Russian president to use troops in Ukrainian territory until the social and political situation in that country returned to normal. On March 1 the members of the city legislature in Sevastopol voted for refusal to obey the authorities in Kiev and for supporting Crimea’s referendum on expanding the autonomy’s status.
On March 6 the Crimean parliament asked the Russian president to admit the republic as a constituent territory of the Russian Federation and set March 16 as the referendum date. On the same day the city council of Sevastopol adopted a resolution in favor of participating in the Crimean referendum. The Crimean parliament formed the republic’s own government ministries, and also prosecutor’s office, security service, security department, customs and other agencies independent from the authorities in Kiev.
On March 11 the legislatures of Crimea and Sevastopol voted for a declaration on the independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol.
The two questions put to the electorate in the referendum were:
1. Are you for the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a constituent territory of the Russian Federation?
2. Are you for the restoration of Crimea’s Constitution of 1992 and for Crimea’s status as a region of Ukraine?
Support from more than 50% of those who cast their ballots was declared enough for the approval of either decision. The ballot papers were printed in three languages — Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar. In the end, 96.77% of the voters (1.233 million) in Crimea and 95.6% (262,000 in Sevastopol) backed reunification with Russia. In Crimea, the turnout reached 83.1% and in Sevastopol, 89.5%. The referendum was monitored by a group of 50 observers from 21 countries, including Israel, France and Italy. Most of the UN member-states refused to recognize the plebiscite.
Declaration of Crimea’s independence
The next day, March 17, 2014 the Crimean parliament adopted a resolution to declare Crimea a sovereign state. The same resolution contained a call addressed to Russia with a request for admitting Crimea to the Russian Federation as a new constituent territory enjoying the status of a republic. On March 17 the legislatures of Crimea and Sevastopol were given new names. Crimea’s State Council declared Ukrainian assets located in the peninsula as republican property and ruled that no Ukrainian laws adopted after February 21, 2014 were applicable in Crimea. The Sevastopol city council unanimously voted for the city’s accession to Russia as separate member of the federation — a federal city.
On March 17 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to recognize Crimea as a sovereign and independent state.
Reunification with Russia
On March 18, 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin, Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, chairman of Crimea’s State Council Vladimir Konstantinov and chairman of the coordinating council for crating Sevastopol’s life support directorate, Aleksey Chaly, put their signatures to the treaty on the accession of the new territorial entities to the Russian Federation. Ukraine, the United States and the European Union refused to recognize Crimea’s independence and its reunification with Russia.
On March 21 Putin signed into law an act of ratification of the treaty and the constitutional law on the accession of Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia as members of the federation. On the same day Putin signed a decree to form the Crimean Federal District consisting of the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol (on 28 July, 2016 the Crimean district was abolished and the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol made part of Russia’s Southern Federal District).
On April 11, 2014 the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea was adopted. It established Crimea’s three official languages — Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.
On March 18, the peninsula marks the Day of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Crimea’s development as part of Russia
In 2014-2022, key transport, energy and social infrastructure facilities were constructed in Crimea. According to Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, as of early 2022 a total of 490 out of 980 facilities have been built on the peninsula. Some 526 bln rubles ($4.9 bln) have been allocated for funding the events of the state program up to 2025.
In 2015-2016, an energy bridge to Crimea was built, which consists of several facilities to link the peninsula’s energy system with Russia’s Unified Energy System.
In 2018, the new Crimean Bridge, linking the peninsula with mainland Russia, was opened for cars. In December 2019, the railway passenger service over the bridge was launched, and in June 2020 the bridge was opened for freight trains.
The 19-kilometer Crimean Bridge, the longest one in Russia and Europe, links the Taman Peninsula (Russia’s Krasnodar region) and the Kerch Peninsula (Crimea).
The overall investments in Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014-2022 exceeded 1.37 trl rubles ($13 bln).