In Crimea, Feature Articles, March 16, 2016  (with extensive video news report)

Rally in Simferopol on March 16, 2016 celebrates two year anniversary of referendum vote to rejoin Russia (Max Vetrov, Sputnik)

Rally in Simferopol on March 16, 2016 celebrates two year anniversary of referendum vote to rejoin Russia (Max Vetrov, Sputnik)

Two years ago, an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted in favor of reuniting with Russia – a move that was met by Western condemnation and sanctions. While the sanctions persist, attitudes towards the people’s choice are changing.

Crimea’s population refused to recognize the new government in Kiev, which came to power on February 21, 2014, viewing it as illegitimate. The citizens of the autonomous republic, home to an ethnic majority Russian population, feared the coup-imposed leadership wouldn’t represent their interests and respect their rights and choices.

Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the peninsula, voted for independence from Ukraine and to rejoin Russia in a referendum on March 16, 2014. The decision was supported by more than 1.2 million people, or roughly 97 percent of voters with an 83-percent turnout.

Yet, the West, led by the U.S., refused to recognize the Crimean people’s choice and slapped Moscow with sanctions that continue to this day. Two years ago, US President Barack Obama called the referendum “illegal,” while British Prime Minister David Cameron said the decision to “annex” Crimea would result in Russia facing “serious consequences” for its alleged breach of international law.

The policy of “non-recognition” of the Crimean referendum continues today, but this attitude is slowly changing, as Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, explained to RT.

Sakwa said in the West the perception of “territorial boundaries change.” Westerners have come to “an acceptance that the overwhelming majority of the Crimean people did want to rejoin Russia.”

He said this was reinforced by a “very important” independent German GfK poll in February 2015, titled: “The Socio-Political Sentiments in Crimea”, which according to Sakwa also confirmed the results of the referendum of March 2014.

“There is an understanding of the aspirations of the Crimean people. Plus of course the blockade put by radical forces within Ukraine does not really help the Ukrainian cause,” Sakwa said.

In the meantime, French politician Christian Vanneste told RT that in due course Europeans will recognize Crimea’s choice.

“I’m certain the Crimean referendum will be recognized because it is just common sense,” Vanneste told RT, adding that Crimea was artificially transferred to the Ukrainian Republic in 1954, and that the peninsula historically belongs to Russia.

At the same time, Sakwa acknowledged there is a “big division” among European leaders, who have always used the word annexation, while those on the “other side” understand Crimea was only under Kiev’s control from 1991, when the USSR ceased to exist.

“The Ukraine phenomenally has mismanaged it all. The idea was, and this was the principle of Russia in the 1997 Treaty of Friendship with Ukraine – it was the recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty. It was quite clearly the breakdown of the Ukrainian state system in 2014 [that caused] the Russian principle of accepting the sovereignty of Ukraine [to break down].”

Read also:

An eyewitness recounts the Crimean referendum two years ago, by Dmitry Mechnikov, special to Russia Insider, March 16, 2016

‘For the citizens of Sevastopol, the referendum first of all meant salvation’

Turkey reiterates it does not recognize 2014 referendum in Crimea, Anadolou Agency, March 16, 2016

Ukraine’s electricity blockade of Crimea has cost peninsula $28 million, compensation will be sought, Sputnik News, March 16, 2016


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