Connect with us


A Clear Red Line in Crimea




We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

The Thin Red Line of the 93rd Highland Regiment of Foot from the battle of Sevastopol withstanding the charge of the Russian Heavy Cavalry

The Kremlin scored a propaganda triumph last month when Rumen Radev the President of Bulgaria, a NATO member and EU Member State, stated on television that Crimea is “currently Russian.” The USA, the EU and Ukraine all roundly condemned his remarks, which were at best an elementary schoolboy howler, and at worst a deliberately false statement delivered with malevolent intent. 

The plain truth is that under international law Crimea is Ukrainian sovereign territory that was annexed by Russia in 2014, and has been under forced military occupation ever since. It has become heavily militarised during the illegal Russian occupation and now hosts Russian Army land forces, armoured divisions, naval units, air, artillery and missile capabilities, out of all proportion to the defence needs of the peninsula.

The newswire Bloomberg warned last week that Russia was building up troops on the border with Ukraine, and in a security alert posted on its website on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv warned American citizens of “unusual Russian military activity near Ukraine’s borders and in occupied Crimea,” adding that “security conditions along the border may change with little or no notice.”

This week in central Kyiv several large demonstrations are taking place in Kyiv at Maidan, at the Verkhovna Rada and at the Presidential Palace at Bankova, indicating that the political temperature is rising. A standard soviet playbook in these circumstances is to take advantage of public protests to execute a “provocation” which is then used as a specious pretext to organise military intervention.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington is "very concerned about the movements we’ve seen along Ukraine’s border. We know that Russia often combines those efforts with internal efforts to destabilise a country. That’s part of the playbook, and we’re looking at it very closely.”

Rolling the clock back, Crimea was originally annexed by Russia in 1783 following a war between Russia and Turkey, which was decisively won by Russia following naval battles in the Black Sea. (At that time Bulgaria was still part of the Ottoman Empire, which was in a state of decline). It was a Scottish Admiral, Sir Thomas Mackenzie, who then played a significant part in the defeat of the Turkish navy. He subsequently established the port of Sevastopol which went on to become the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet. At that time, the bay of Sevastopol was a quiet rural backwater, but its development helped to deliver an important strategic objective for the Russian Navy, namely to have a “warm water port” which gave access to the Mediterranean. Admiral Mackenzie was rewarded by Empress Catherine the Great for his efforts by having the hills behind Sevastopol named after him “The Mackenzie Hills”. This was the beginning of the “militarisation” of Crimea.


As modern techniques of warfare developed, Sevastopol later became a “closed city” and an important submarine base during the cold war era where nuclear submarines could be concealed in secret sea tunnels. This naval advantage has been reduced significantly due to the limitations imposed on shipping from the Black Sea to enter the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus. But Crimea still retains a strategic significance today by virtue of its geographical location and proximity to EU and Turkish capitals as an aerial and missile base.

The Crimean Peninsula was included for administrative purposes in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. At that time, this decision made good administrative sense, as the peninsula relied on the mainland in neighbouring Kherson province for its water supply, and it had no electric power generation of its own. Also, the only rail and land transport at that time was via mainland Ukraine. Of course Krushchev could never have foreseen the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. 

But the city of Sevastopol has always evoked powerful emotions concerning its status as the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It is also remembered in military history as a “City of Heroes” for its heroic defence under siege during the Crimean War against the French the British, the Turks and Italians, in 1942 against the invading German Army, and its subsequent recapture by the Red Army in 1945.

Under Ukrainian sovereignty from 1991 onwards, following the independence of Ukraine, Crimea was recognised as an Autonomous Republic with its own Parliament, and Sevastopol was accorded special status placing it in administrative terms on a par with Kyiv.

But the illegal occupation of the territory has now placed Russia at loggerheads with the EU, and is one of the principle reasons for ongoing EU sanctions against Russia. In order to unblock this impasse, a solution is needed to determine the future of this region in a peaceful and democratic manner. Mischevious comments from Balkan political leaders like Radev with dubious motives do not help us forward with thi

s process.

Share this article:

EU Reporter publishes articles from a variety of outside sources which express a wide range of viewpoints. The positions taken in these articles are not necessarily those of EU Reporter.