In Geneva, during talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has firmly defended the Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine.
While Ban, himself, urged Moscow to refrain from acts and rhetoric that might worsen the situation, Lavrov, in an address to the UN’s Human Rights Council, blamed the West for polarising Ukranian society.
‘‘Those who attempt to interpret the situation as an act of aggression and threaten us with sanctions and boycotts – these are the very same partners of ours who have consistently encouraged political forces close to them to deliver an ultimatum and refuse dialogue, to ignore the concerns of the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, which has ultimately polarised Ukrainian society. We call for a responsible approach to put aside geo-political calculations, and above all to put the interests of the Ukrainian people first,’‘ Lavrov said.
Despite a wave of Western criticism against Moscow, inside Russia several large-scale rallies were held across the country over the weekend in support of President Vladimir Putin’s position on Ukraine.
Crimea – a quick history1783:
Crimea annexed by Russian Empire.
1853: Crimean War begins between Russian Empire and a French-, British- and Ottoman-Empire and Sardinian alliance for influence over territories in the diminishing Ottoman Empire. Principal fighting takes place in Crimea.
1854: Allied troops land in Crimea and besiege the city of Sevastopol, home of the Tsar’s Black Sea fleet.
1856: Russia loses the Crimean War.
1917: Russian Civil War begins. Crimea changes hands several times.
1921: The Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is created as part of the Russian SFSR, which was to become part of the new Soviet Union. Crimea experiences the first of two severe famines in the 20th century.
1941: Germany invades and takes over much of Crimea as part of its World War II campaign.
1944: Sevastopol comes under the control of Soviet Union troops. The city is destroyed. “Ethnic cleansing” programme begins under order of Joseph Stalin. Crimean Tatars, Armenians, Bulgarians and Greeks deported to Central Asia.
1945: The Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is abolished and becomes a province of Russia.
1954: Crimean region becomes part of Ukraine, after decree by USSR.
1967: Crimean Tatars rehabilitated, but banned from returning to their homeland until the Soviet Union is in its last days.
1991: Collapse of the Soviet Union. Crimea becomes part of the newly-independent Ukraine. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet remains stationed in the region.
1994: Russia agrees that Crimea is legally part of Ukraine and pledges to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
1998: Current constitution put into place. Territory’s name changed to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
2008: Ukrainian foreign minister Volodymyr Ohryzko accuses Russia of handing out Russian passports to Crimean residents. Describes it as a “real problem” given Russia’s policy to protect its citizens abroad with military intervention.
2009: Polls in Crimea suggest the population is opposed to the idea of becoming part of Russia. Anti-Ukraine demonstrations held by ethnic Russian residents in Crimea later in the year.
2010: Treaty to extend Russia’s lease on a military wharf in Sevastopol until 2042 ratified by Ukraine and Russia.
2014: Pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters clash in Crimean city of Simferopol. Vladimir Putin deploys Russian armed forces in key points in Crimea. Foreign ministry states this is in line with Ukraine-Russia agreements. Russian parliament grants President Putin’s request to use military force in Ukraine. EU and US condemn the motion.