Ukraine’s complex transition
Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Igor Lyubashenko
The role of Crimea in Ukraine - Russia relations
During the 1990s the issue of Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet were among the most difficult in Ukraine-Russia relations. In 1994 the popularity of the separatist movement in Crimea was at its peak, and it seemed that Kyiv would lose control over the peninsula. Russian politicians encouraged the Crimean pro-Russian movements and questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea on many occasions. However, Crimean separatism did not receive endorsement from the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin and lost its initial support due to internal issues. Whereas Russia recognised Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea concluding the Ukraine-Russia Treaty on Friendship, Co-operation and Partnership (the Big Treaty) in 1997, it secured the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Ukrainian territory for the next twenty years. The Black Sea fleet and the Russian diaspora in Crimea have become a key instrument of soft power in Russia’s policy toward Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine struggled to ensure not only de iure, but also de facto sovereignty over Crimea, especially in the aftermath of the Russian-Georgia war of 2008, and to limit Russian presence on the peninsula. The tensions between Russia and Ukraine decreased during Yanukovych’s presidency in Ukraine as Russia managed to ensure its long-term strategic presence in Crimea by prolonging the basing agreement at least until 2042. However, the unexpected departure of Viktor Yanukovych as a result of mass protests in Ukraine ended up with Russian military intervention and annexation of Crimea in February-March 2014.
This chapter offers an overview of...
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