Undoubtedly everyone reading this will understand that there is currently a great deal of tension between Russia and Ukraine over who ‘owns’ Crimea. In this article I will attempt to explain the essentials of the story so far.
So way back in the Soviet Union days, Crimea was assigned to be a part of Ukraine by Russian leaders. That wasn’t a big deal at the time, but when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Crimea ended up being part of the newly independent Ukraine. The problem is that to this day, the majority of citizens view themselves as Russian rather than Ukrainian–slight problem.
This issue lay dormant for a couple of decades with the odd bit of bickering between Moscow and Kiev, but it all came to a head in February 2014. Since November 2013, Ukrainians had been protesting for closer integration with Europe (google Euromaidan protests), but the drama didn’t really kick off until February, when police and protesters clashed as 20,000 protesters marched on Ukrainian Parliament. Basically, they wanted to restore the Constitution of Ukraine to how it was before Viktor Yanukovych became president, but he wasn’t so keen on the idea.
Eventually the protesters took over parliament, ousting Yanukovych, who fled to Russia. This was when s**t got real; upsetting Russia is never, ever, a good idea.
So, Yanukovych, having been impeached, runs off to Russia, meanwhile back in Ukraine, there are a few Russian nationalist politicians calling for Russia to protect the Russian-speaking Crimea. At the same time, Russia, China and India are all refusing to recognise the new Ukrainian government, calling it a political coup, which theoretically it is because to process by which Yanukovych was impeached was, by the Ukrainian Constitution, well…unconstitutional.
From February 26th, Russian forces began to gradually take over Crimea, and due to the fact that Russia is Russia, there was very little that anyone could do about it. The problem was that due to the previous close ties between Ukraine and Russia, Russia had rights to station troops there, and could claim that any troops they sent into Ukraine were there simply for ‘training purposes’. Claims flew that Yanukovych had asked Russia to send in troops to ‘protect the citizens of Crimea’. Thankfully, the takeover was relatively smooth with minimal violence.
So we get to March 17th, when the Crimean Supreme Court declare Crimea’s independence from the Ukraine. A vote held the day before showed that 96% of Crimean citizens supported joining Russia, and so on March 18th, President Putin of Russia reclaimed Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation, just a day after Crimea requested that they do so.
Surprise, surprise, despite Western powers doing their best to prevent Russia from absorbing Crimea, Putin managed it anyway. The West still refuse to acknowledge Crimea as part of Russia, and have frozen assets of many ‘high fliers’ in Russian politics, but these are having very little effect. The sanctions are likely to be extended, however experts are of a split oppinion, some claiming that broader sanctions could cause a Russian recession, and others claiming that they will have no impact whatsoever, which begs the question, will Russia face any true fallout for its actions?