Crimea: five years on
by Ambassador Vladimir Malygin, The Times of Malta, Thursday, March 7, 2019
On March 18, 2019 Russia will be celebrating a major event – the fifth anniversary of the voluntary reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with the Russian Federation.
As is well known, soon after the 2014 anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine, openly supported by the US and several Western countries, when nationalists came to power in Kiev and began to publicly demand the extermination or expulsion of Russians from Crimea, the peninsula proclaimed its independence and held a free and fair referendum, where 94 per cent of Crimea’s 2.3 million inhabitants expressed their will to reunite with the Russian Federation (97 per cent voted in favour of such a move).
It must be highlighted here that this happened in full compliance with international law and the UN Charter, while for example Kosovo was declared “independent” from Serbia without any referendums, simply by a vote in the local Parliament, which was dominated by Kosovo Albanians, and in the presence of Nato troops.
The countries that orchestrated this have also made many attempts to change objectionable regimes whenever they felt like it in violation of international law, and blatantly displaying double standards. We are observing this in real time in Venezuela, where cynical open interference in domestic affairs of a sovereign state continues.
We are often told that Kosovo is a “special case”. However, any international situation, especially if we speak of changing interstate borders, is a special case.
The reunification of Germany (without a referendum), the situation around Mayotte Island (the Comoros) or Falkland (Malvinas) Islands (with referendums) etc. can serve as examples here.
Coming back to Crimea, one cannot ignore the fact that during the last five years the peninsula has taken great strides forward.
Since 2014, Crimea’s gross regional product grew by 55 per cent, thousands of working places were created, wages and pensions rose by tens and hundreds of per cent respectively.
The infrastructure, which for many years had been neglected by the Ukrainian authorities, received major investments worth billions of euros. This resulted in the construction of numerous major objects, including an airport, a bridge and a modern highway as well as new power stations, hospitals, schools and kindergartens.
Crime in the peninsula has dropped considerably. Tourism is on the rise – in 2018 the record 6.8 million tourists (28 per cent growth year-on-year) visited the peninsula. Among them were people from 132 countries of the world, including one million Ukrainians.
It should be noted here that Crimea continues to live under illegitimate sanctions imposed by the US, EU countries and Canada, which are aimed at limiting trade, economic and investment cooperation with this Russian region.
Visa restrictions introduced by the EU with regard to the people of Crimea are a serious violation of human rights as they impede freedom of movement. All this is nothing but an attempt to collectively punish Crimeans for their free choice in favour of Russia and to undermine their legitimate right to self-determination, enshrined in the UN Charter.
Over the past years Ukraine has also demonstrated its hypocritical “love and concern” for Crimeans by cutting the peninsula off of electricity, blocking access to fresh water, imposing a trade and transport blockade as well as attempting to engineer terrorist and sabotage attacks on Crimea.
Russia took active measures in this regard by addressing the peninsula’s energy and water issues, constructing the Kerch Bridge – the longest in Europe – which links Crimea with mainland Russia and provides for a free flow of people and goods, and enhancing the peninsula’s security.
After Crimea’s reunification with Russia, a disinformation campaign about alleged human rights violations there has been unleashed against our country. Its political nature is absolutely evident. It would not be irrelevant to recall that the human rights situation in Crimea prior to 2014 was a constant target of criticism on part of numerous international organisations, but at the time it did not evoke any reaction from the current self-styled “champions of human rights” in Crimea.
Russia takes substantive measures to support all ethnic minorities in Crimea, whose interests are being respected. The multinational population of the peninsula fully realises its right to the freedom of speech and assembly, study in one’s native languages, including Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar, which along with Russian were recognised in 2014 as state languages of Crimea.
Religious freedoms are also being protected – a cathedral mosque is being built in Simferopol for the first time in Crimean history. Fake stories about mistreatment of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians, impairment of their rights are obviously unsubstantiated and are aimed at deliberately falsifying facts of their lives.
Absolute inconsistency of accusations of “discrimination” against Crimean Tatars was confirmed in an interim decision of the International Court of Justice in April 2017, as well as by numerous foreign social and political personalities who have visited Crimea.
Claims that the Russian authorities allegedly prevent visitors and foreign observers from entering the peninsula are simply groundless. In 2017 alone there were more than 100 visits by delegations from abroad, which included MPs from European countries. The IV Yalta International Economic Forum in 2018 attracted 3,000 delegates, including visitors from 71 countries.
In conclusion, it must be stressed that the issue of Crimea’s territorial belonging has been closed once and for all.
I would like to welcome everyone to visit Crimea and see the realities there with their own eyes. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.