Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 15.01.2018
Crimea is Ukraine. Ukrainians have a right to travel wherever they want in their own country. A foreign country, Russia, has violently interfered with that right of free movement. Russia invaded Ukraine in Crimea on 20 February 2014 and has been illegally occupying Ukraine’s southern peninsula ever since. Russia purports to have “annexed” Crimea, a status that the United Nations General Assembly and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly demand that nations of the world not recognize.
Being naturally a part of Ukraine, Crimea is readily accessible from Kherson region which is to the north of it. Even though a Russian invasion-occupation army faces Ukrainian defenders across an artificial administrative border, Ukrainians cross back and forth to Crimea. The numbers of Ukrainians crossing the line of demarcation has been increasing. In 2017, over 2.5 million people crossed in more than 410 thousand vehicles. The people of Crimea have almost four years of experience to teach them that they will always be second-class Russians to the Muscovy occupation regime and they will always be full members of the Ukrainian nation.
Meanwhile, over in Donbas – where Russia is also invading and where a hot war is being waged – Ukrainians are also crossing in increasing numbers at five “humanitarian corridors.” The one at Stanytsia Luhanska is a partially destroyed bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river – people have to walk across the ruins to go back and forth between captive Ukraine and free Ukraine. They enduring physical and emotional strain to do it because the attitude is that Ukrainians are free people who may freely travel in their own country, despite what foreigners from Muscovy might say or do.
Ukraine will be increasing the number of law enforcement officers on the Kherson-Crimea demarcation line. This was announced by the National Police of Ukraine on January 13. Enforcing sovereignty within Ukraine means providing for the free movement of Ukrainians while protecting from Russian saboteurs and criminals. Crimes committed against Ukrainians in Crimea are subject to Ukrainian law. The duty of enforcement falls upon the Ukrainian state – Ukraine needs to do that efficiently at the Kherson-Crimea demarcation since it temporarily cannot do that in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol.
The only legal way to enter Crimea today, given Russia’s illegitimate occupation of this Ukrainian territory, is by land from Kherson. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine determines what is a legal entry to Ukraine. Nevertheless, some people break the law and arrive at Crimea from Russia by air or by ferry. In 2017, almost 1,500 foreigners were banned from entering Ukraine because they visited temporarily occupied Crimea without the permission of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. Over 100 of these banned persons were artists who gave performances in Crimea after arriving from the territory of invader-occupier Russia. Some of the banned persons were politicians from marginal European political parties, who support Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine and oppose the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Politicians from France’s Republican Party, the Austrian Freedom Party (which is now in a coalition government in Vienna), the Alternative for Germany party, Bulgarian Attack, Polish Change, Serbia’s Radical Party, Czechia’s Freedom and Direct Democracy party, and the United Kingdom Independence Party all illegally visited Crimea. All were sponsored by Moscow for their visits, as their political parties are in their home countries.
Crimea is a natural and integral part of Ukraine: geographically, culturally, historically, and socially. Any connection to Muscovy is only every the result of violence and political domination. The artificiality of “Krym Nash” (“Crimea is Ours”) in Russia means the eventual collapse of Putin’s foreign military adventurism on Ukraine’s southern peninsula. Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, Russians, and other ethnicities who live in Crimea are Ukrainian citizens who belong in peaceful, democratic, tolerant, and multi-cultural Ukraine. Because Crimea is Ukraine, peace and security will only return to Europe when Crimea is liberated from the Russian invader-occupiers.