Control of the Crimean peninsula has officially been transferred to the Russian Federation following a March 16 referendum, which was to establish whether Crimea wanted to join Russia or remain a part of Ukraine.
Election officials told the BBC that 80 percent of voters cast ballots and 96.7 percent of those voters favored joining the Russian Federation.
Four days later, on March 20, the United States and the European Union drew up sanctions to condemn the annexation. The United States’ sanctions include freezing the assets of wealthy Russian citizens.
The Crimean Peninsula is home to a majority population of ethnic Russians. On the western part of the peninsula lies the city of Sevastopol. This coastal city has been home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet since 1783, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
“It’s quasi-legal. It is not strictly legal because Russia sent in troops earlier. Had it [Russia] done so without the troops, it would have been much easier,” said Associate Professor of History and Political Science Milind Thakar.
Russian troops allegedly entered Ukraine on March 1, when President Vladimir Putin requested authorization from the Russian parliament to use force to protect Russian interests in Ukraine.
On March 4, Putin announced that the armed men besieging Ukrainian military units were not Russian forces but pro-Russian defense forces, according to the BBC.
“For the rest of the world, it [the Crimean referendum] means one country has managed to push aside international legal norms and acquire territory in defiance of international legal norms; that’s Russia,” Thakar said. “There’s an aspect of force which militias against any freedom of movement in Crimea.”
According to Thakar, Crimea was given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev, then leader of the Soviet Union at a time when no one seriously expected the Soviet Union to collapse. So when he gave it away, it was still the under control of Moscow. In 1991, the Soviet Union broke up. Russia, distracted at the time by internal troubles, did not take back the peninsula.
The origins of the modern Russian state lie in Ukraine. The original capital of the country was in Kiev, the modern capital of Ukraine.
“The first [municipality] was founded in Ukraine. While some Ukrainians may not like being dominated by Russia, the feeling the Russians have of Western Europe moving in is similar to how Americans might view Cuba,” Thakar said. “… I am not saying this is legal. I’m not saying this is a good thing necessarily. But I am speaking from the perspective of how Russia sees it.”
On March 23, CNN reported that Philip M. Breedlove, United States General and Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, was concerned with Russian forces along the border with Ukraine.
“The [Russian] force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizeable and very, very ready,” Breedlove said. “There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Trans-Dniester if the decision was made to do that, and that is very worrisome.”
Anatoly Antonov, the deputy defense minister of the Russian government, said that his government said that deployment of troops along the border with Ukraine is in compliance with international agreements regarding troop numbers.