Despite the fact Crimea has been de facto administered by Russia for seven years now, the American government will never view Moscow’s rule as legitimate, insisting it remains part of Ukraine.
That’s according to Rodney Hunter, one of the US’ top diplomats at the United Nations, speaking at a Security Council briefing on Thursday. Hunter also confirmed that Washington will continue to impose sanctions over the reabsorption.
He announced that Washington “reaffirms its unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.”
“As a result,” he said, “US sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression in eastern Ukraine and occupation of Crimea will remain in place unless – and until – Russia reverses course.”
Hunter added that his government hopes “like-minded partners will consider joining this diplomatic effort to push back on Russia’s aggression and make clear that the international community will not tolerate Russia’s brutal occupation.”
Crimea had been part of Russia for centuries, until it was handed over to Kiev in 1954 by Soviet authorities. After years of chronic underinvestment, when it returned to Russian control after Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan, the peninsula was instantly ranked as the poorest part of the country. Now, however, with an influx of investment from Moscow and a booming tourist industry, the region has been rapidly transformed.
In November, a lawmaker from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s own ruling party claimed that Crimeans were better off under new management. “A lot of people are satisfied and happy,” Elizaveta Bogutskaya said of those living in the region, many of whom had been Ukrainian citizens before Crimea voted to join Russia in 2014.
She argued that locals had been used to politicians in Kiev not prioritizing the region, saying “in the 30 years before, nothing had been done. When we don’t make any progress, we stand still.” A former resident of Simferopol until 2014, she said that “I saw a video of the place where I lived, I just did not recognize it at all … there are already high-rise buildings, and highways have been built there.”
In January, seven years on from the reintegration of Crimea, Ukraine’s first ever president said that the country might be ready to strike a deal over the peninsula and resolve its issues. “I am not saying that Ukraine is perfectly right in everything,” he said, “but Ukraine is ready for compromises.”
Also at the beginning of the year, a Crimean senator mocked Zelensky’s call for residents of the region to “turn back the clock” and return to rule from Kiev. Sergey Tsekov, a representative on the Russian Federation Council, said that instead it would be better for Ukraine to set its watches to a time before it became “the most backward country in Europe.”
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