By Staff Reporter
- After the revolution that deposed elected president Viktor Yanukovych in mainland Ukraine, tension have developed in the south , semi autonomous state
- Crimea is dominantly Russian speaking
- Crimea has a devolved administration headed by Prime Minister usually appointed by Kiev but a pro-Russian PM was elected just after
- Crimea has its own parliament and government with powers over agriculture, public infrastructure and tourism.
- The region – a peninsula on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast – has 2.3 million people, most of whom identify themselves as ethnic Russians and speak Russian.
- The region voted heavily for Viktor Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election, and many people there believe he is the victim of a coup – leading to attempts by separatists in Crimea’s parliament to push for a vote on whether it should leave Ukraine
- The Republic of Crimea, a part of Ukraine, lies on a peninsula stretching out from the south of Ukraine between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. It is separated from Russia to the east by the narrow Kerch Strait.
- The Russian Tsars and Soviet elite spent summers on its subtropical southern shores which still attract holidaymakers and, latterly, wealthy property developers.
- Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine The Great in 1783 and remained part of Russia until 1954 when it was transferred to Ukraine under the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
- Ethnic Russians still make up the bulk of the population, Ukrainians under a quarter and the Muslim Crimean Tatars about 12%.
- For centuries under Greek and Roman influence, Crimea in 1443 became the centre of a Tatar Khanate, which later became an Ottoman vassal state.
- Rival imperial ambitions in the mid 19th century led to the Crimean War when Britain and France, suspicious of Russian ambitions in the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire declined, sent troops.
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- Given autonomous republic status within Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, Crimea was occupied by the Nazis in the early 1940s.
- After Ukrainian independence, political figures from the local Russian community sought to assert sovereignty and strengthen ties with Russia through a series of moves declared unconstitutional by Kiev.
- The 1996 Ukrainian constitution stipulated that Crimea would have autonomous republic status but reasserted that Crimean legislation must be in keeping with that of Ukraine.
- The Crimean Tatars have their own unofficial parliament, the Mejlis, which states its purpose as being to promote the rights and interests of the Crimean Tatars.
- The port of Sevastopol is a major naval base and has been home to the Black Sea Fleet since Soviet times. Following the collapse of the USSR, the fleet was divided up between Russia and Ukraine.
- The continuing presence of the Russian fleet in Sevastopol has been a focus of tension between Russia and Ukraine.
- In 2008, Ukraine – then under the pro-Western President Viktor Yuschenko – demanded that Moscow not use the Black Sea Fleet during the its conflict with Georgia.
- Both countries had agreed to allow the Russian fleet to stay until 2017, but after the election of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych as president in 2010, Ukraine agreed to extend the lease by 25 years beyond 2017, in return for cheaper Russian gas.
- There was also friction over plans – later scrapped by Mr Yanukovych – by Mr Yushchenko to strengthen ties with Nato. In 2006, ethnic Russians took to the streets to disrupt preparations for Nato-led naval exercises off Crimea.
- There is a rumbling border dispute between Moscow and Kiev in the Kerch Strait.
- Tensions rose sharply in late 2003 after Russia started building a causeway between the Russian coast and the island of Tuzla, just off Crimea.
Russia’s military has given Ukrainian forces in Crimea until dawn on Tuesday to surrender or face an assault, Ukrainian defence sources have said.
The head of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Aleksander Vitko set the deadline and threatened an attack “across Crimea”.
He also reportedly told two warships to surrender or be attacked at 17:00 GMT on Monday.
Moscow says it is protecting civilians from “ultra-nationalist threats”, but its actions have been widely condemned.
Russia is now said to be in de facto control of the Crimea region.
No shots have been fired and no treaties signed but Crimea is now de facto under Russian armed control.
Two large Ukrainian military bases are surrounded, with Russian troops standing alongside local self-defence groups, who demand that the Ukrainian soldiers inside defect from Kiev to Crimea’s new pro-Russia government.
The naval headquarters remains blockaded and key installations like airports are still occupied. Thousands of newly arrived Russian elite troops far outnumber Ukraine’s military presence here. Crimea has in effect been cut off by roadblocks, where vehicles are being denied access to the peninsula.
At countless pro-Russia demonstrations, Moscow’s intervention is warmly welcomed. But away from the nationalist fervour, Crimeans from all sides are profoundly fearful of what comes next.
Ukraine has ordered full mobilisation to counter the intervention.
No shots have yet been fired in the region, which has a majority of Russian speakers and a largely pro-Russian local government.
However, the captain of one of the threatened warships told Ukrainian TV his men were prepared to fight and would not surrender.
The trouble began last month when pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted following months of street protests.
Russia claims its military is protecting human rights in Crimea, but Kiev, the US and western Europe have condemned the actions.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said earlier that any attempt to seize Crimea would fail, urging allies to give economic and political support to his government.
In other developments:
- US Vice-President Joe Biden reportedly urges Russia to back a plan to deploy international monitors to Ukraine
- The G7 pulls out of preparations for a G8 meeting scheduled for June in Russia, sparking an angry reaction from Moscow
- British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the turmoil in Ukraineis the “biggest crisis” Europe has faced in the 21st Century.