A day after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that Crimea should be “returned” to Ukraine – Russia lashed back saying in no way will Crimea be “given back” to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response.
“We don’t return our territories. Crimea is a territory of the Russian Federation,” Zakharova said at a weekly news briefing, referring to the Black Sea peninsula that voted in a referendum to join Russia in early 2014.
Crimea became a part of the Russian Empire back in the 18th century, but was reassigned to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 by the Soviet Union’s ruling presidium under Nikita Khrushchev. Crimea rejoined Russia after a 2014 referendum, when almost 97 percent of the region’s population voted for reunification, while the city of Sevastopol supported the move by 95.6 percent of votes.
The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or about 58 percent of the population, according to the last national census conducted back in 2001. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000) and 12 percent are Crimean Tatars.
“The issue of Crimea return is absolutely clear — it is part of Russia and it cannot be subject of bargaining between Russia and the United States, no matter what is at stake,” Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense committee in the Russian upper house of parliament, told Sputnik International on Tuesday.
During the election campaign Trump claimed he would “consider” recognizing Crimea as part of Russia following the referendum in the peninsula, adding that the Crimeans wanted to live in Russia.
With the recent resignation of Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, over alleged discussions he had with the Russian Ambassador, and the current rhetoric coming out of Washington, puts the proposed US-Russia detente in limbo. The next few hours and days will be very telling.