US legislators propose bill to tie Russian sanctions to Crimea

The southern coast of Crimea in the vicinity of the Big Yalta. © Sergey Malgavko
Members of the US Congress introduced a bill “to contain, reverse and deter Russian aggression” and “assist Ukraine’s democratic transition,” proposing that sanctions against Russia be lifted if and when Crimea “is returned” to Ukraine.

Democrat Eliot Engel and Republican Adam Kinzinger, the authors of the bill posted on the website of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Friday, suggest that Russia could be freed from sanctions if and when the US President “submits to the appropriate congressional committees a certification that Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea has been restored” and “the status of Crimea has been resolved, through an internationally-supervised process, to the satisfaction of the democratically-elected government of Ukraine.”

The lawmakers also proposed that any form of recognition of Crimea (or the air space above it and its territorial waters) as part of Russia be rejected. The bill orders the US Government Printing Office (GPO) not to print maps or any other relevant documents on which the Crimean Peninsula is shown as Russian territory.

“Driven by President Putin, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has undermined the country’s sovereignty, and at the same time threatened our own long-term investment in a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. Russia’s occupation of Crimea is illegal. We need to be crystal clear about that in our policy,” Engel said during the presentation of the bill.

The US has been accusing Russia of “Crimea annexation” and "military invasion in the east of Ukraine,” with Moscow repeatedly dismissing the accusations and stressing that Crimea rejoined Russia on the basis of a legal referendum and has nothing to do with the events in southeastern Ukraine.

French legislators, meanwhile, came up with a different initiative. Republican Thierry Mariani initiated a parliamentary debate, calling on the EU to end restrictive policies against Moscow earlier this week, He and succeeded, with fifty-five members in the lower house of the French Parliament approving the resolution. Despite the fact that the resolution is non-binding and does not impose obligations on the government, MPs believe that it will pave the way for European governments, including theirs, to end anti-Russia sanctions.

“Sanctions should be lifted, this is obvious, even the President of the Republic [Francois Hollande] spoke about it himself, it’s just that for now they [the EU and US] want to hold on to their ‘lever’,” chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, socialist Elisabeth Guigou said after the vote.

Relations between Russia and the West have been gradually deteriorating since 2014, with mutual sanctions hitting entire sectors of the Russian and European economies hard.

Meanwhile in the ‘disputed’ Crimea itself, Russian authorities have been busy restoring the energy supply and upgrading the existing public infrastructure.

Crimea was completely de-energized on the night of November 22, 2015 after all four transmission lines coming from Ukraine stopped working due to an explosion in a sabotage attack. Crimea has been in the state of emergency ever since, with rotating power cuts and thousands left without energy for days. This week, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that in April energy deficit in Crimea has been fully eliminated due to launch of the energy bridges from the Russian territory via neighboring Kuban region.

Crimea is also to get some $4 million in the first half of 2016 for the renovation of its public service sector. In addition, the construction of roads, kindergartens, schools and hospitals has taken full swing with the arrival of spring in the peninsula, just as in other parts of Russia.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently noted that in spite of everything, Crimea has become a rightful Russian region, the same as any other.

“The Crimean peninsula has become a normal, ordinary Russian region. This land is ours; it’s our responsibility, our concern. No matter what they say,” Medvedev pointed out during a government report to the State Duma on April 19.