Crimea: a Time to Gather Stones

The success of the referendum in Crimea could be the beginning of a new phase in the struggle of Ukraine’s South-Eastern regions

The adoption on 11 March 2014 by the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crime of a declaration of independence marks the beginning of a review of the borders of post-Soviet Ukraine, which lost its international legitimacy after the Nazi-Banderist coup in February.

The Kosovo precedent and its positive legal evaluation by leading Western powers gives Crimean residents the right to determine their destiny in the upcoming referendum on 16 March.

At this stage, Kiev is doing everything possible to ensure that the residents of Crimea vote for membership in the Russian Federation. Belligerent statements by the new "government" about taking control of the rebellious peninsula by force, freezing accounts of the State Treasury of the Republic of Crimea and blocking access to databases listing the details of Crimean voters, together with the prospect of being governed by another Forbes-listed billionaire, clearly don’t win sympathy for the current Kiev leadership among ordinary Crimeans.

Today the question remains: how far is the self-proclaimed government in Kiev prepared to go for the sake of the illusion of returning the Crimea into the fold of revolutionary legitimacy. There appears to be no absolute answer, even among the putschists.

It is clear that the armed forces of Ukraine cannot currently cope with a serious military challenge, let alone take control of the Crimean territory. That is why radical forces are rushing to legitimize armed groups from the "Right Sector”, which, however, is unlikely to resolve the question of retaining the Crimea due to insufficient time. At this stage, foreign mercenaries, arriving en masse in Ukraine, are necessary for the United States and Western multinational corporations to control essential infrastructure facilities, including the oil and gas transportation system of Ukraine. The “government” of Arseniy Yatsenyuk is ready to make any concessions, including completely abdicating what remains of the country’s political and economic sovereignty, in return for promises of financial aid from the West.

The still fresh memories of the 2008 events in South Ossetia and Abkhazia give the hot heads in Kiev pause for thought: hardly anyone doubts Russia's resolute response in the event full-scale armed clashes break out on the putschists’ initiative. However, any decision to launch armed operations against the Republic of Crimea is unlikely to be adopted in Kiev. The West is actively monitoring the situation on the peninsula, as evidenced by the interception of an American drone.

Clearly, it’s unlikely that provocation on the eve of and during the referendum can be avoided. The question will be one of scale and informational promotion. However, the latter is unlikely to become a serious problem for opponents of the referendum.

Ill-conceived acts on the part of the powers in Kiev and their Western backers in relation to the Crimea, including acts of force, could provoke a surge in the mood of protest in neighbouring regions that recently indicated a wish to join the former Autonomous - and now de facto independent from Kiev - Republic of Crimea. We are talking about the Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa regions. Moreover, the Crimean leadership, represented by Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov recently made clear its support for the citizens of Odessa in the fight against the illegitimate dictatorship of authorities in Kiev.

Ukraine’s potential loss of an exit to the Black Sea sharply reduces her geopolitical value, which, in turn, will result in the denial of even the illusory promises of financial aid from the West. Her value in the eyes of Western allies will only be measured by the length of oil and gas pipes, which route through her remaining territory and will pass into the full control of foreign multinational corporations.

In addition, with Kiev’s loss of control over the Odessa area and other seaside regions, Russia can establish direct contact with the Pridnestpovian Moldavian Republic and strengthen its influence in Moldova and neighbouring States. The latter aspect is very important because sentiment against the construction of the “South Stream” has increased sharply in the West.

Given the emerging prospects, it is entirely possible that the real goal of the mobilization of the Ukrainian army and its concentration in regions adjacent to the Crimea is to prevent that scenario, which, however, does not exclude provocations against the independent peninsula.

The success of the referendum in Crimea could be the beginning of a new phase in the struggle of South-Eastern regions of Ukraine for the expansion of its rights and the choice of its historical destiny. Given the increasing influence of neo-nazi and frankly russophobic powers in Ukrainian politics, Russia has the right to defend its national interests and the rights of its compatriots using any means provided by international law.

Crimea Ukraine