It is said that the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula and the illegal warfare in Donbass is about Russia not wanting to see Exxon and Shell extract gas deposits in western Ukraine, as Russia would then lose its main source of income, to sell gas to the EU, particularly to Germany. But the annexation of Crimea explicitly violates the Budapest Declaration. Crimea is not part of Russia. In 1991, there was a referendum where they voted to belong to Ukraine, and in 1994 Russia signed the Budapest Declaration, an agreement to respect Ukraine’s borders forever.
In March 2014, Crimea declared itself independent from Ukraine and applied to join Russia. The Russian military mobilized on the Russian side of the border. 60,000 Russian soldiers were summoned at the Eastern border of Ukraine at the time and 20,000 more in the Crimea. Ukraine’s parliament decided to mobilize 40,000 reservists in response to Crimea saying that it would take over the Ukrainian military bases.
When all the voices had been counted after the following referendum in Crimea, 97 percent had voted for that the peninsula should break free from Ukraine and join Russia. The voting populus in the election were said to be more than 80 percent. The number of ethnic Russians in the Crimea were 60 percent of the population in 2014. 25 percent were Ukrainians and 12 percent were Crimean Tatars, smaller ethnicities not mentioned. The Crimean Tatars are generally Russian-hostile since the days of Stalin’s deportations.
If all who did not vote were Ukrainians and Tatars and all Ukrainians and Tatars who voted, voted for Crimea to separate from Ukraine, and all ethnic Russians also voted for a separation, the election result would be correct with a few percent error margin. Neither Ukraine, the EU nor the United States recognized the election result. The Crimean management immediately started a nationalization of Ukrainian property by taking over banks, companies, the railway and an energy company. The EU introduced travel bans and frozen accounts abroad for some Russian and Crimean leaders.
The distinctive feature of this war is Russian disinformation and even more disinformation. It is not easy for a citizen to see passed the Russian disinformation, unless you happen to live in Ukraine. To disinform means to distort, hide or completely concoct information in order to mislead and influence a target group in a certain direction. Disinformation creates what is called ”the fog of war”. But one can look at a map and compare it with the news flow and ascertain that the battles have been most intense around the relatively large airports in Donetsk and Luhansk, which are now totally bombarded. Almost 20 percent of the Ukrainian cities are located in the Donbass. In addition, the separatists have a corridor to Russia in the east.
Russia’s main disinformation campaign is still ongoing. Russia claims that they have the right to create buffer zones in sovereign non-aligned states against NATO according to the self-defense principle. Russia has no such right! On the other hand, small states have the right to choose their allies and friends as much as Russia takes that right, without having to be attacked.
Tsar Putin paints a picture of unrest and oppression that now affects ethnic Russians outside of Russia. The fact that the picture is partly and sometimes entirely created by the Russian secret services and/or Russian media can take its time to unravel and not everyone can connect Moscow’s claim with what later emerges. On 27-28 February of 2014, key buildings and airports in the Crimea were occupied, while at the same time Ukrainian military installations were blocked or occupied. Putin vigorously denied that Russia was invading Crimea. The so-called ”Small green men” who occupied Crimea lacked identification features. It was just ”local self-defense forces,” Putin was saying.
”Russia have no plans to enter Eastern Ukraine.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March 2014 to the US Secretary of Defense, while info pointed to that Russian soldiers had stormed three Ukrainian warships, according to the news agency AP’s photographers at place in the port of Sevastopol. ”Russian soldiers along the border with Ukraine are only there for military exercises and should not cross the border,” said Shoigu. Defense Minister Chuck Hagel had an almost one hour long phone call with his Russian counterpart where Hagel demanded an explanation why Russia placed forces along the borders with eastern and southern Ukraine. The source is a spokesperson for the US Defense Minister.
Only when the annexation was completed did President Putin confirm that the soldiers in Crimea were Russian soldiers. Interestingly in this context, the medal these soldiers were then to receive, where the embossing on the back shows the dates of the operation as February 20 to March 18. February 20 was the day before Yanukovych fled Ukraine and only on February 26 did the small green men appear in Crimea. Speaking of the annexation, one of the Russian state media for foreigners, ”Russia’s Voice”, had a newslet on March 4, 2014; ”Russia does not intend to seize Crimea”. What has made Ukraine’s situation worse is the country’s dependence on Russian gas and that they have therefore had to stand with their cap in hand before Putin when they have made gas deals during the war. Source; Joakim von Braun
Putin has not given up on the idea of seizing the strategically important Ukrainian port and airport in the city of Odessa. While the city of Mariupol is a first step to creating a land road to the occupied Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, Odessa is needed to create a longer land connection to Transnistria where Russia has a military base. Transnistria can only be reached through Ukraine or Moldova. They are looking to create a Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) and must eventually conquer the entire coast of Ukraine along the Black Sea.
Since Russia has launched a war on Ukraine, Russia’s only opportunity to reach, supply and support Transnistria is to fly in via Romanian airspace to Moldova’s largest airport at Chisinau in the inland. But Russia cannot supply Transnistria with new ammunition and modern weapons via the airport because Moldova inspects every incoming airplane. Therefore, Russia will sooner or later want to attack Odessa to create a direct land connection to Transnistria and deprive Ukraine of its main port, which will further weaken Ukraine’s economy. In the year of 2014, Russian agents repeatedly infiltrated Odessa from Transnistria and placed bombs in offices and business locations of the pro-ukrainian civil society’s organizations. Source; Euromaidan Press
Euromaidan was a popular manifestation of discontent that took place on the Independence Square in Kiev against the regime for more than 100 days in 2013-2014, ultimately against the President of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych sneaked away from Euromaidans’ grip on February 21 after the police shooting with deadly outcome, and then appeared in the Russian city of Rostov at Don, where he held a press conference and claimed that he was Ukraine’s legitimate president and that the opposition had carried out a coup d’état. Those of the parliamentarians in Yanukovych’s own Party who had not fled the country loaded with cash, gold and antiques, voted to dethrone Yanukovych in the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada) who dismissed Yanukovych with an 82% majority. By fleeing he had also renounced his presidency. The Russian-friendly Yanukovych was displaced by his people, because he chose a Russian oriented politics and shunned the EU. He was notorious for imprisoning high oppositionists such as Yulia Tymoshenko, the former president of Ukraine, and part of her entourage too. The reason? Yulia made a bad gas energy deal with Russia, the same Russia which Yanukovych himself favored.
This lesson are only about the beginning and the end goal for Russia in this war. I have one simple question for you; Do you, or do you not put the blame on Russia for the war in Eastern Ukraine i.e. in Donbass? Do you, or do you not put the blame on Russia for the Russian annexation of Crimea? Please do not motivate your standpoint to me! A simple yes or no would do.
Joakim von Braun
Roger M. Klang, defense political Spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden