Whilst Russia claims to be intervening in Ukraine in order to protect the rights of its citizens, the international community looks on in outrage. Former diplomat Robert Brinkley gives his expert analytical view on what is a highly-charged, complicated and sensitive situation, unravelling the deep-rooted historical and cultural issues that underpin current events.
In 1954, the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev handed over Crimea to Ukraine, recognizing that it belonged to a united country. When Ukraine became independent from the former USSR in 1991, President Boris Yeltsin agreed that Crimea should remain in Ukraine with Russia’s Black Sea Fleet be allowed to remain in Sevastopol under lease – a lease that was recently extended to the year 2042. However, Russia’s claims and historical links with Crimea go back to Catherine the Great, when Russia won the area from the Ottoman Empire. Crimea and Ukraine have had a troubled history and relationship with Russia, one of the reasons for which is that Russia covets a warm-sea port and the Russian élite has long viewed Crimea as a resort of preference for sanitoria and summer residences. There is an ethnic Russian majority in Ukraine’s Crimea of almost 60% and Tatars account for about 12%, with ethnic Ukrainians standing at about 25% - tensions between groups of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians are running high.
How can this potential military conflagration be solved? Are economic sanctions the answer – and if so, which? Is military action unavoidable? These and other questions are answered in a refreshingly frank audience and speaker session at Pushkin House.
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