It might seem like so long ago given all that’s happened in the world ever since, but it was on 16 March, 2014 that Crimea made the fateful and democratic decision to rejoin Russia. This monumental event, prompted by the bloody “EuroMaidan” coup in Kiev and the consequent uncontrollable spread of violent neo-Nazism all across Ukraine, completely changed International Relations by giving the West the excuse that they were looking for to initiate the Sanctions War and what others have subsequently termed the New Cold War.
Contrary to its stated democratic values and support of free elections, the West refused to recognize Crimea’s reunification with Russia and decided to punish both parties instead, groundlessly arguing that the peninsula was “forcibly annexed” by Moscow and that the inhabitants would rather live under Poroshenko than President Putin. Amidst this heated war of fake news and polemics being waged against Russia, the Crimean people have steadfastly remained loyal to their historic homeland and adamantly rejected the West’s manufactured narrative that they’re pitifully living under “Russian occupation”. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Crimea’s economy has grown and it’s seen record-breaking tourism ever since it rejoined Russia. Moreover, it’s not just Russians who have travelled there over the past three years, but people from all across the world, including European parliamentarians, political observers, journalists, and even private citizens.
As always happens, reality refuted propaganda, and independent voices have confirmed that the Crimean referendum of 2014 was free, fair, democratic, and representative of the will of the vast majority of the population. While Crimea and the rest of Russia celebrate this historic moment, however, the nearby region of Donbas is struggling in its fight against Kiev, bravely warding off artillery strikes and shadowy assassinations in its quest for freedom. While oftentimes compared to Crimea, Donbas obviously hasn’t met the same fate, but this is due to its specific situational differences and also the grand strategic calculations of the Kremlin. In reflecting on Crimea’s recent past, it’s impossible not to think about Donbas under the current circumstances, and a discussion about both of them should reveal more about their interlinked futures.
We are joined by Bernard Casey, economic modernization specialist for Russia and its former territories, who served as president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kiev during the reunification of Crimea with Russia. Also, on the line with us is Padraig McGrath, Irish independent journalist living in Crimea.
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