Crisis in Ukraine: What led to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

Why is Crimea part of Ukraine?

In 1954, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea as a gift to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. At that time Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, which subsequently meant nothing. The Soviet Union was still controlling Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, making no difference to the civilians.

However, in 1944, only 10 years earlier, Joseph Stalin deported all Crimean Tatars to Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic for rumoured links with Hitler’s Germany.

Crimean Tatars
They are an ethnic group, originating from the Crimean peninsula. They dominated Crimea
from the 15th century until the mass deportation in 1944organised by the Soviet Union.
Crimean Tatars can also be found in Turkey and Uzbekistan.

More than 92% of people voted in favour of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, which consequently resulted in the dissolvent of the socialist state governed by the Communist Party.

Unfortunately early 1990s have been dominated by a disagreement between Russia and Ukraine, which focused on the future of Sevastopol, the capital city of the Black Sea Fleet.

What is the economical importance of Sevastopol?

The Black Sea Fleet was crucially important to the Soviet Union at the time, while many Crimeans believed that Sevastopol should be classified as a Russian city. In 1993 – facing protests – Russia decided to reclaim the city of Sevastopol. This resulted in long political disagreements and negations between Kiev and Moscow. As part of a new agreement, Russia’s Black Sea base will remain in Sevastopol, recently extended to 2042.

Sevastopol is a city located in Crimea with an estimated population of 342,000. Port of Sevastopol is one of the busiest seaports in the region. During World War II heavily bombarded by the Germans.

Why won’t Russia give up Crimea?

The majority of people living in Crimea are Russian, which gives the ex-Soviet country an ability to claim that they are active in Ukraine, because they must protect the human rights of all Russians.

Republic of Crimea
Russians – 58.3%;
Ukrainians – 24.3%;
Crimean Tatars  -12.0%;
Other (2.2%)
(2001 census)

Under an agreement between Kiev and Moscow, Russia is allowed to deploy 25,000 troops in the city of Sevastopol, but not across The Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Although originally Moscow denied the alleged rumours that Russian troops have been deployed around Crimea, Moscow is now claiming that they are only self-defence forces, because of the ‘dramatically’ changing conditions in Ukraine and Crimea.

Why has Crimea become the main flashpoint in this crisis?

Experts confirm that, “Crimea became the main flashpoint in this crisis, because of its strategic value in the Black Sea,” said Pablo Veyrat, specialist in post-Soviet politics. “The purpose is to take it away from the mainland Ukraine.”

“Besides legendary considerations on Ukraine being the land from which the settlers of what constitutes today Russia came from a thousand years ago, it has always considered it part of its buffer zone with NATO and its exclusive zone of influence.”

“Russia also feels it has to give a strong response to what they regard as a Western-organised coup.”

“Moscow fears it has been tricked by the West, accusing it of fomenting the protests, and feels the need to protect its underbelly, a border to its heartland.”

What do Ukrainians think about the Russian deployment in Crimea?

“Furthermore most of the experts have agreed that the main aim of Putin’s aggression was to cut it off Ukraine, from the Black Sea,” said Maxim Sochiskiy. “It is why Donetsk and Lugansk are too poor and have not as much value as Odessa, Kherson and Mykolaiv where all main sea ports, shipbuilding and ship-repair enterprises are located. “

“Without southern regions of Ukraine, Crimea is no use to Putin, because it will not solve the main geopolitical aim to take over control of the Black Sea and receive as much advantages of Ukraine’s geographical position.”