Russia State Duma Speaker demands compensation from Ukraine for ‘annexing’ Crimea
Five years after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, Russian State Duma Speaker Viacheslav Volodin has claimed it was Ukraine that annexed Crimea and should pay ‘compensation’. This is not the first time that a Russian parliamentary speaker has come out with such nonsense, but Volodin’s claims went much further, with the hope presumably that the economic woes that Russian occupation has brought Crimea could be blamed on Ukraine.
Over 40 Russian Duma deputies, including the Speaker and Olga Vasilyeva, Education Minister, and apologist for Joseph Stalin, were in Crimea to celebrate what Russia attempts to describe as Crimea ‘re-joining the Russian Federation’.
On 15 March, Volodin claimed that the Ukrainian authorities had over 25 years carried out a destructive policy towards Crimea.
“Ukraine behaved very very badly towards Crimea. Fundamental civil rights were violated, the right to language, the right to education in their native language. It destroyed the economy of Crimea and Sevastopol, effectively annexation”.
He proposed that profile committees both in the Duma and the de facto Crimean parliament ‘study this question’ and count up how much Crimea’s economy had supposedly lost “because of Ukraine’s destructive policy imposed here”.
Volodin went even further, suggesting that they ‘study’ the question of the EU’s alleged liability for the socio-economic position in Crimea “given its support for Ukraine”.
Some of the lies in Volodin’s address are standard Russian narrative. Moscow has for many years tried to push the line that Russians and Russian-speakers were discriminated against in Crimea, although it was, in fact, Ukrainian speakers who had trouble finding schools in Ukrainian and could be said to have faced discrimination. Volodin’s attempts to accuse Ukraine of violating Crimeans’ rights comes just days after the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner issued a damning report on the situation in occupied Crimea. OHCHR and other international bodies and democratic states have condemned Russia’s violations and taking of political prisoners since annexation, however the report was of particular importance since it spelled out quite unequivocally that the 24 Ukrainians whom Russia seized after attacking three Ukrainian naval boats on 25 November 2018 should be considered prisoners of war.
Volodin did, however, go much further than former Russian Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin who, in June 2014, merely claimed that Crimea had been ‘annexed’ by Ukraine in 1991 and had now simply ‘returned’ to Russia.
The reasons are very clear. While Russia falsified the so-called ‘referendum’ on 16 March and called in far-right and other pro-Russian politicians to act as ‘observers’, there were undoubtedly some Crimeans who were initially attracted to the idea of ‘joining Russia’, and believed the promises of wealth and prosperity.
All such euphoria appears to have fizzled, economic and other problems are major, while, as Russian lawyer Nikolai Polozov put it, Crimeans can no longer even come out in protest. Back in August 2018, he noted the specific nature of the situation in Crimea. “All the negative phenomena and processes that one sees in the Russian Federation are now being actively cultivated in Crimea. This is the inculcation of a police state and militarization”.
Even the people who did not support Ukraine, he said, have now descended into a state of apathy and disillusionment.
Russian state media are very careful to doctor all information about the invasion and annexation five years ago, with neither of these harsh, yet accurate, words used. It is claimed that ‘Crimeans’ decided to hold a ‘referendum’ because there had been a ‘coup d’etat’ in Kyiv, and that Russia’s involvement was only to ‘help’ in ensuring that the said ‘referendum’ went well. The dislocation from reality in such assertions was even noted by the Human Rights Council which purportedly advises Russian President Vladimir Putin.