Disinfo: Crimea returned to Russia after a referendum

Summary

Crimea returned to be a Russian federal province, after a referendum held on March 16, 2014, in Crimea and Sevastopol, and both regions have become within the Russian Federation, as of March 18, 2014.

Crimea was one of the Russian provinces up until the beginning of the fifties of the twentieth century when the authorities of the Union of Soviet Republics decided to transfer their subordination to the Republic of Ukraine.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the illegal annexation of Crimea, claiming that Crimea voted to rejoin Russia through a legal referendum and painting the idea that Crimea has never belonged to Ukraine.

For historical reference, Crimea was annexed by Catherine II (the Great), then containing Ukraine in 1783, already in violation of a treaty that guaranteed the independence of the Tatar khanate.

The peninsula was reorganised as the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921. After the war, Crimea was downgraded from an autonomous republic to an oblast (region) of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.

In February 1954, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR confirmed the need for Crimea to join Soviet Ukraine. Legally, the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine ended on 26 April 1954, on the basis of the relevant law of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

After the collapse of the USSR, Russia reaffirmed respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, by signing the 1997 Friendship Treaty, Russia also recognised that Crimea belongs to Ukraine.

Regarding the so-called referendum announced on the 27th of February 2014, and held on the 16th of March 2014, it was organised hastily and at gunpoint following the covert invasion of “little green men” and barring impartial observers from entering the peninsula can hardly be called "reunification in strict accordance with all the norms of international law.

Ukrainian authorities reported almost in real-time the identification and details of the Russian military forces invading Crimea.

Even Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, recognised on 17 April 2015 that "our soldiers were deployed in Crimea to help the inhabitants express their opinion." Putin admitted (and was proud of) that the plan to annex Crimea was ordered weeks before the so-called referendum.

No international body recognises the so-called referendum in Crimea. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, stating that the referendum in Crimea was not valid and could not serve as a basis for any change in the status of the peninsula. On 17 December 2018, the UN General Assembly confirmed its non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea.

The European Union does not recognise and continues to strongly condemn this violation of international law, which remains a challenge to the international security order.

In response to the illegal annexation of Crimea, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against the Russian Federation. In June 2020, the European Council decided to renew the sanctions introduced in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation until 23 June 2021.

Check previous disinformation narratives in our database alleging that the EU has accepted Crimea's incorporation into Russia and that the Crimean people chose to be with Russia through the democratic procedure; or that historically Crimea was a Russian land; or that Moscow did not violate international law when reunifying Crimea with Russia.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 236
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 16/03/2021
  • Article language(s) Arabic
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Ukraine, Russia
  • Keywords: Crimea, Manipulated elections/referendum, Occupation, illegal annexation, Ukrainian statehood, International Law
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Disproof

This is a mix of several recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about the West waging information wars in order to destabilise Russia, about the case of Alexei Navalny as a fabrication, and about Europe as a vassal of the US.

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Disproof

Recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the West’s alleged support for terrorism in the Middle East.

The claim that the West created the Islamic State is false. In fact, both the US and most EU members, as well as Canada and Australia, have taken part in the counter-terrorism mission Operation Inherent Resolve, while the EU established its own set of actions to counter Daesh.

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Disproof

Recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative against the US and its allies, aiming to sow mistrust among members of the Transatlantic alliance and among the US and its partners all over the world. This disinformation piece is a direct reaction to the release of the US Interim National Security Strategic Guidance on March 3, 2021, which strongly focuses on reinforcing these alliances, a core goal of the Biden Administration. Contrary to the claim, the US doesn’t rule over these other governments, which are sovereign nations with their own policies and interests.

See other examples in our database, such as claims that Ukraine is ruled by Poles and Americans, that France is a puppet of the US, that Germany and Japan are occupied by the US, that Europe is a colony of the United States or that Georgia is under Western control.