Yesterday, at a large rally of thousands of people in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed Ukraine would not give “an inch” of its territory to Russia. “Russia and its president should know that”, he said.
Earlier, yesterday itself, Russians took over a Ukrainian border post on the western edge of Crimea at around 6 a.m. (0400) GMT, increasing Russian grip over the region, according to Reuters.
Russian forces now control 11 border guard posts across Crimea.
A Reuters reporting team also said they had filmed a convoy of hundreds of Russian troops in about 50 trucks, accompanied by armored vehicles and ambulances pulling into a military base north of Simferopol in broad daylight on Saturday.
To understand this trending story, I think, we should give a quick look at a little bit of history of Crimea, and at the two sides who want Crimea.
The Crimean territory became part of Soviet Ukraine in 1954. And it remained a part of Ukraine, which was then a Soviet Socialist Republic.
But in 1991, when Soviet Union or USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) collapsed, Ukraine, with Crimea, became Independent.
Since 1991, Crimea was an autonomous republic within the independent nation of Ukraine.
Now, what are the two sides of the story?
The Ukrainian parliament, which unanimously sacked its President in February 2014, says that Crimea – even with its autonomous republic status – is still within Ukraine, and therefore cannot be forcibly taken over by Russia.
The Russian parliament – which gave power to President Vladimir Putin to use military action, if necessary – says now that Crimea can become a Russian territory if the people of Crimea decide it that way. And a referendum is now set for 16 March.
But, why does Russia want it? It is because Russia says the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had actually requested an armed intervention. And also because.a majority of people living there are Russians, and their safety is primary.
But does the request of a unanimously ousted President still hold any legitimacy?
And will the 2 million people of Crimea opt to stay with Ukraine, or go to Russia?
When last asked in 1991, they had voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.
So, I am not sure how this conflict will end. But, I am sure, it will not end soon, and it will not be easy.
This is definitely the worst ever stand-off between the western nations and Russia, since the Cold War.
While some fear a civil war internally, some other countries in Europe, with Russian majorities, fear an external Russian offensive.
President Barack Obama spoke by phone on Saturday to the leaders of France, Britain and Italy and three ex-Soviet Baltic States that have joined NATO. He had assured Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which have their own ethnic Russian populations, that the Western military alliance would protect them if necessary.
Crimea, as per the census of 2001, is made up of 58.32% Russians, 24.32% Ukrainians and 12.10% Crimean Tatars.
So, I believe it is unlikely that referendum will show a definite result. And I hope that the western nations with Ukraine, and Russia must come out with a peaceful solution, even if it takes a long time.