Crimea

  • Setting the Record Straight on Crimea

    It is ironic that Diane Francis views my characterizations of the Crimea annexation as touting the Kremlin line. Everything I've written about the Russian takeover of Crimea, from this March 2014 column comparing it with the Anschluss, to the October 4 column that displeased Francis, could land me in jail in Russia. Crimean Tatar activist Rafis Kashapov was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in 2015 for denying, as I consistently do, that Crimea is part of Russia.

    I acquired the freedom to write these columns by leaving my country. That was no small price to pay, so I'm disinclined to waste that freedom on the sloppy treatment of facts, which are often inconvenient to both sides of a conflict.

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  • Crimea’s Virtual Blackout Means Anything Goes

    On Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, the Russian authorities are suppressing freedom of speech so that no one will really know what has happened there. Journalists in particular are under threat.

    The case of Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena is one example of the situation in Crimea, which Russia has illegally occupied since 2014. His opinions were published in 2015 by Radio Liberty, a US government-sponsored news outlet that the Russian authorities dislike. His crime: he discussed Russia’s annexation of Crimea and supported a blockade of the peninsula. On April 19, 2016, Semena’s house was searched by the FSB, the Russian security service. Within a couple of days, they brought charges against him. His case is in Russian court now, and he faces a sentence of up to five years in prison.

    Since then, Semena’s health has been deteriorating—because of the terrible circumstances and because he is in his sixties. According to a conclusion by the Kyiv Institute of Neurosurgery, the journalist needs an operation. The International and European Federation of Journalists issued a statement urging the Russian authorities to allow Mykola to leave Crimea for treatment in Kyiv. Nevertheless, the sick journalist did not receive permission to do so.

    Semena’s situation is just the tip of the iceberg. Russia’s repression of free speech in Crimea is systemic. Restrictions were put in place immediately after the arrival of Russia’s "little green men” in the spring of 2014. I was there at that time and saw it firsthand.

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  • How Ukraine Can Win Back Crimea

    The Crimean Tatars are finally receiving the attention they deserve, and that Ukraine must give, if it is to regain Crimea and again be a unified country.

    On April 19, 2017, the International Court of Justice at The Hague issued a provisional ruling calling for an end to racial discrimination against Crimean Tatars, as well as ethnic Ukrainians, in Russian-occupied Crimea.

    Predating this, in March 2014, parliament adopted a decree guaranteeing Crimean Tatars “protection and the realization of their inalienable rights for self-determination within a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state.”

    As directed by this decree, on April 7, 2017, a draft law was introduced in parliament to grant Crimean Tatars the status of “indigenous people of Ukraine.” Giving them this status would provide them with the legal right to fight for their rights on the international level against Russian annexation.

    Russia laid the first building blocks for the now three-year illegal annexation of Crimea by playing on the historic inequities that have existed in Tatar-Ukrainian relations.

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  • US Lawmakers Remain Firm on Russia Sanctions

    US sanctions on Russia, imposed in response to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, must not only be maintained, “they should be tightened,” according to Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH).

    As recently as March 20, Russia has performed military drills practicing “offensive and defensive operations,” in Crimea, Chabot said, adding: “The fact that Russia has successfully claimed another country’s sovereign territory as its own and then carries out unprecedented offensive military drills there [is] absolutely unacceptable.”

    Chabot suggested that “in the last number of years America’s traditional leadership role around the world has often times been lacking.” He went on to describe a “power vacuum around various parts of the globe” that Russian President “Vladimir Putin and other bad actors have taken advantage of.” He called Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 an “egregious example of that power vacuum.”

    The West cannot afford to stand idly by, said Chabot.

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  • Polyakova Quoted by Newsweek on Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Policy


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  • A New Approach to Reintegrating Eastern Ukraine and Crimea

    Russian aggression is not likely to go away soon. As a result, Ukraine needs to revise the current framework guiding its economic disengagement from the occupied regions of the Donbas and Crimea. Economic disengagement limits the risks of financing terrorism with money coming from mainland Ukraine, and makes sure that the occupied areas of Donbas don’t turn into an economic grey zone and center of smuggling. It is also important to counter the Kremlin’s policy, which seeks to preserve control over the occupied areas of the Donbas without taking any economic responsibility for the region.

    Disengaging from the occupied areas of the Donbas will be complicated; prior to Russia’s aggression, the region generated 16 percent of the country’s GDP. Despite the overall ban on Ukrainian business relations with the region, there are a number of important exemptions.

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  • Independent Judiciary an ‘Antidote’ to Corruption in Ukraine

    An independent judiciary and institutional transparency are necessary to root out corruption from government and businesses in Ukraine, according to a transnational criminal lawyer.

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  • How Soft Power Works: Russian Passportization and Compatriot Policies Paved Way for Crimean Annexation and War in Donbas

    The following is an edited excerpt from Agnia Grigas’ new book, Beyond Crimea: The New Russian Empire. The book examines Moscow’s policies toward Russian compatriots in former Soviet republics, including Ukraine where they laid the groundwork for Crimea’s annexation and the conflict in the Donbas.

    Moscow’s policies towards its “compatriots”—loosely defined as ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, and other minorities sharing cultural, religious, or historical ties to Russia and residing abroad—were launched in the 1990s and gained momentum in the 2000s under the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Ukraine, Moscow’s interest in the Russian minority intensified following Ukraine’s attempts to turn toward the West with the 2004 Orange Revolution. Ironically, no international human rights organizations had ever received complaints from ethnic Russians or Russian speakers living in Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians have lived together peacefully for decades: intermarrying, speaking predominantly Russian in some regions, and often sharing the same faith.

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  • Developing a Western Energy Strategy for the Black Sea Region and Beyond

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    In Developing a Western Energy Strategy for the Black Sea Region and Beyond, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and Global Energy Center Ariel Cohen addresses the urgent need for a European policy on Black Sea energy following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Dr. Cohen, himself a native of Yalta in Crimea, draws on his wealth of experience in Russian and energy affairs to argue that NATO should boost its military presence in the area, while the EU should work to limit the overwhelming hold of Russia's state gas exporter, Gazprom, on Europe's energy sector. To reduce reliance on Gazprom, which accounts for much of the gas supplied to Southeast Europe, Cohen advocates for lifting government restriction on shale gas exploration, establishing a favorable tax regime for exploration and production of nonconventional resources, and establishing a network of gas interconnectors in the Black Sea.

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  • The Militarization of Crimea under Russian Occupation

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    In "The Militarization of Crimea under Russian Occupation," Crimean activist Andrii Klymenko explains how the Kremlin has moved to tighten its grip on Crimea as the world turns its focus toward Syria. Indeed, Russia has proven itself to be settling in for the long haul in Crimea, with mass relocations of Russian military servicemen to the peninsula spurring housing shortages and massive infrastructure projects.


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