One year after Crimea’s annexation to Russia

(VOVworld) – It has been one year since President Vladimir Putin signed treaties annexing Crimea and the port city of Sevastopol to Russia. In the past year Russia has increased investment in Crimea while handling pressure from the West.

One year after Crimea’s annexation to Russia - ảnh 1
Members of pro-Russian self-defence units hold Russian and Crimean flags during a meeting to celebrate the first anniversary of Crimea's annexation to Russia in central Simferopol March 16, 2015. (photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)

Crimea was annexed to Russia on March 16, 2014 after a referendum showed that 97% of voters in Crimea wanted to leave Ukraine and return to Russia. At a meeting on Wednesday to celebrate the one-year anniversary, Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov praised the historic decision and affirmed that Crimea will never again be part of Ukraine.

Massive investment in infrastructure, economics, and defense

Crimea has seen positive changes in various sectors since its annexation to Russia and has gradually integrated economically, financially, and legally with Russia. The ruble was adopted as its currency after the signing of the federal law on annexation. Last April, Crimea began educational reform aligned with Russia’s standard. Salaries and retirement pensions have been increased while the unemployment rate has declined. Russia plans to build 11 trade and entertainment centers in Crimea this year. A federal special program has allocated 800 million USD toward improving Crimea’s energy infrastructure.

Crimea’s Deputy Prime Minister Alla Pashkunova said Crimea’s people, including retired people, have received free medical services. The government will spend 50 million USD to upgrade Crimea’s hospitals this year.

Russia has invested heavily in Crimea’s infrastructure and industry. Almost all coastal resorts, roads, railways, and gas pipelines in Crimea are being upgraded. Permanent fresh water supply projects will be implemented since Ukraine cut off water supply to Crimea from the Dnepr river.

In addition to socio-economic development investments, Russia has started modernizing Crimea’s military. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia has formed 7 army divisions and 8 regiments in Crimea. After Crimea’s reunification with Russia, 9,000 former Ukrainian servicemen and 7,000 Ukrainian civilian personnel rallied to Russia. Russia has deployed multipurpose jets to Belbek airbase in Crimea and air defense units there have received new S-300PMU and Pantsir-S1 air defense missile systems. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet will receive six new frigates, six diesel submarines, and Buyan-M missile ships, mostly based in  Crimea.

Russia is facing more pressure from the West

The latest poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed that more than 90% of Crimea’s people say they would still vote for annexation to Russia if another referendum were held. The West has not acknowledged the referendum result. It says Crimea’s annexation was a principal cause of the Ukraine crisis. The West considers Crimea a good reason to increase pressure on Russia and they will not readily ignore Crimea even though the Ukrainian crisis has been gradually resolved. Western sanctions and lower oil prices have pushed Russia into a recession. NATO has accused Russia of supplying weapons to the separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region, and reported that Russian jets entered NATO countries’ airspace several times in 2014.

Although it has rejected NATO’s accusations, Russia has conducted a military exercise at the North Pole, the biggest military display since the Crimea annexation. President Putin has put the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet on full alert. Another exercise is being held in Russia's eastern region involving 5,000 troops.

Crimea is rapidly becoming a Russian stronghold. Although it’s hard for the US and the West to accept the annexation, Crimea has truly become a part of Russia. 

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