Russia explains what it believes it saved Crimea from
Had Moscow not reabsorbed Crimea in 2014, radical groups from Ukraine as well as Western private military soldiers would have made it their stronghold, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has claimed.
Speaking as part of an interview with Moscow newspaper Argumenty i Fakty published on Monday, the senior official said that “if all these people – Ukrainian neo-fascists, ultranationalists, extremists and mercenaries from European countries and the United States – had come to Crimea after the coup d'état in Kiev, as they were about to do, I assure you, no one would have thought any less.”
According to him, it would have created a hotbed of tension that the world would not be able to extinguish. “We still see the consequences of the attempts of these non-humans, together with Ukrainian troops, to impose their order in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Shoigu said.
Crimea was reabsorbed by Russia in March 2014 following a referendum. Ukraine and most other nations in the world have not recognized the vote as legitimate. It came shortly after the events of the Maidan, when violent street protests toppled Kiev’s democratically elected government.
Ukraine considers the peninsula to be part of its territory and illegally occupied by Russia.
Speaking last week at his annual press conference, President Vladimir Putin said the coup forced Moscow to take action. “How could we say no to Sevastopol and Crimea, to the people who live there? How could we not take them under our protection, under our wing? Impossible. We were put in a situation where we could not do otherwise,” he said.
The president also referred to a decision by the Soviet Union to create the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which saw new borders drawn up inside what was formerly the Russian Empire. According to him, people living in Crimea, as well as the war-torn Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, were not given a choice of which country they belonged to, with many of the regions’ residents wishing to be Russian.
“They created a country which never existed before,” Putin claimed, suggesting that the crises of today stem from that decision.
The peninsula was historically part of Russia until 1954, when it was transferred to Kiev's control by former Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev. However, following Ukraine’s independence in 1991, Crimea went along with the new state despite its large ethnically Russian population.