UK Friends of Crimea Association
Crimeans have chosen their own future in an internationally supervised referendum on March 16, 2014. Crimea has been intrinsically Russian since 1783 when Russian forces reinstated Khan Sahin Giray on the ancient Tatar throne following his deposition by his pro-Ottoman brother, Bahidar Giray. According to Neil Kent in his book Crimea a history, “Most of the Tatar aristocracy then swore allegiance to Catherine the Great”, the Russian monarch.
In 2016, following the extra-judicial seizure of power in Kiev, the lawfully elected bodies of Crimea fearing ethnic cleansing and civil war moved swiftly to exert its rights as an autonomous republic based on its national composition of 65% ethnic Russian and 13% Crimean Tatars. With a turnout of 83.1% , 96.77% voted for reunion of Crimea with Russia. A similar result was achieved in Sevastopol.
Sevastopol, the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had been a federal city of Russia since 1948. With a turnout of 89.5%, 95.6% of Sevastopol’s electorate voted for the reunion of Crimea with Russia.
Apart from 62 years (1954-2016) when the Republic of Crimea was administratively “gifted” to Crimea but had autonomy and its own constitution, Crimea had been considered part of Russia. Crimeans and other Russians claim the 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine was done in illegal contravention of the existing constitutions of all parties at the time and the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR was never ratified by a referendum. The inclusion of Sevastopol into Ukraine in the Ukrainian Constitution of 1966 is seen as a seizure of foreign territory by Ukraine.
Since Ukraine had independence thrust upon it in 1991 with the break up of the Soviet Union it had grudgingly and sparingly financed Crimea. When John Bonar visited in early November 2017, he found roads in need of repair, vaunted sanitoriums and health spas along the southern coast in need of renovation and refurbishment and a feel of an aging dowager about much of the province. Sprightly new hotels and apartment blocks crowded the Yalta hills but it was clear that there was vast scope for investment and rehabilitation.
A fiction has grown up in the United States, the United Nations and the European Union that Crimea was annexed in 2014 at the barrel of a gun; that there are widespread human rights abuses perpetrated by “the occupiers” against Crimean Tatars. What John found was a “House of People’s Friendship” in Sevastopol where a dedicated group of people from the State Committee on Interethnic Relations and Deportees” were busy arranging events for the ethnic mosaic that constitutes the Crimean population. The largest mosque in Eastern Europe is being built for Crimean Tatars, which will hold 4,000 worshippers when it is completed and their language is now, along with Russian and Ukrainian an official language of the republic.
It is clear to anyone who speaks with shopkeepers, taxi drivers and hospitality industry workers in Crimea that these people consider themselves Russians, speak Russian, read Russian newspapers and books, watch Russian TV and are determined that their children should continue to be educated in Russian schools.
Sergey Aksyonov, the head of Crimea and its Prime Minister told John that the Crimean authorities were forced to hold the 2014 referendum because the Kiev regime refused to discuss with the Crimean authorities their autonomy, which was provided for in the Constitution.
The western hegemony dominated by the US and EU has imposed an ever-expanding range of sanctions against Russia over its reunion with Crimea. There is no consular or commercial support for people from sanctioning countries within Crimea. Bank cards from these countries do not work in Crimea. Shrugging their shoulders at this temporary inconvenience Russia is building the longest bridge in Europe to carry road and rail traffic from Krasnodar Region to the eastern reaches of Crimea and a futuristic new airport terminal has been built in Simferepol.
There is a feeling that Crimea is making giant steps in a few short years and UK Friends of Crimea wants Britain to be part of that through trade, investment and tourism.
The UK Friends of Crimea is a non-profit unincorporated association at this stage and after its formal launch in 2018 will crowdfund its lobbying, promotion and advisory activities. The designated President of the UK Friends of Crimea is John Bonar and the Vice President is Nigel Sussman, who was one of the international observers of the 2014 referendum. His Highness, Prince Gregoriy Galitzine has agreed to be the Founding Patron of the Association.