Anti-riot police returning to Ukraine’s southern port city of Sevastopol in Crimea have been received as heroes after their action in Kyiv.
Anyone who speaks out in support of the past months of Maidan protests did so at the risk of public beating, as video taken at a welcome rally showed.
In the region of Crimea, most people are pro-Russian, and in the city of Kerch there were clear calls to clarify allegiance.
A demonstrator on a public stage said over a hand-held loudspeaker: “We should consider the secession of Crimea from Ukraine.”
And the crowd chanted: “Russia!”
Jobs and language keep Crimea-Russia ties strong.
Kyiv is concerned about the calls to separate.
The parliamentary vice president, Ruslan Koshulinskiy, in the nationalist Svoboda party, warned of the risks of partitioning Ukraine.
Koshulinskiy said: “Foreign troops are arriving there [in the Crimean peninsula], troops from the Russian Federation. It is no secret that a lot of Russian passports have been given out across Crimea. The laws of the Russian Federation allow dual citizenship but the laws of Ukraine prohibit it.”
Sixty percent of the people in Crimea speak Russian. Until 1954 a province of Russia, Crimea was then transferred to Ukraine by Soviet Russia.
Crimea has been autonomous within the unitary state of Ukraine since then. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in 1997 Russia negotiated renting port space in Sevastopol to keep its base for its Black Sea naval fleet there until 2017.
The now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych extended this to 2042 a couple of years ago, in exchange for friendly Russian gas prices.
Last week, the parliament in Kyiv made Ukrainian once again the sole official language for all legal documents. The region did not appreciate it, having long enjoyed the official acceptance of regional minority languages until this.
On Tuesday, members of the parliament in Moscow visited the Crimean capital Sevastopol to reassure people of Russia’s support, but they denied allegations that Moscow had decided to furnish Russian passports to Ukrainians on request.
Ukraine crisis – how it unfolded
24: Thousands protest in Kyiv over government move to shelve EU association agreement.
17: Ukraine secures a 11bn euro bailout from Russia.
19: Up to 200,000 gather in Kyiv to show opposition to newly-enacted anti-protest laws. Clashes between police and protesters.
20: Clashes continue into second day.
22: Kyiv Post reports five killed and 300 injured as clashes intensify.
23: Truce announced which paves the way for arrested protestors to be released.
28: Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigns. Nine of 11 anti-protests laws repealed after vote in parliament. Stand-off continues between police and protesters in Kyiv.
18: 20,000 protestors march to parliament with MPs set to debate a possible new constitution. At least 17 people, including seven policeman, are killed as fresh clashes erupt.
19: Truce agreed.
20: Truce breaks down, fresh clashes see 48-hour death toll rise to at least 77.
21: Peace deal signed, with talk of early elections. Violence spreads to western Ukraine.
22: Protesters freely take control of presidential buildings amid reports Yanukovych has fled. Parliament votes to remove him with fresh elections set for May. Yanukovych appears on TV and denounces a “coup dêtat”. Opposition leader Tymoshenko released from jail.
23: Tymoshenko ally becomes acting president, saying European integration is a priority
25: Parliament votes for ousted Yanukovych to be tried at International Criminal Court.
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