9 years ago, Russian occupants held an illegal referendum in Crimea

March 16, 2023

Nine years ago, on March 16, 2014, the Russian occupants at gunpoint held a so-called referendum in Crimea on the status of the peninsula, as a result of which Russia included Crimea in its composition.

Hundreds of thousands of people of different ethnicities, at the call of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, boycotted the referendum. All the so-called polling stations in places densely populated by Crimean Tatars were completely empty, and in some settlements they were completely closed.

The indigenous people of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars, by boycotting the referendum, clearly outlined their position and their right to self-determination in accordance with international law. The UN General Assembly declared the referendum illegal. The European Union, the US and a number of other countries have also acknowledged that the referendum is null and void.

“My position was fundamental: I said that a people that has been waging a long-term non-violent struggle, relying on international law, cannot in any way support a country that violates the sovereignty of an entire state and violates international law”,- the Head of the Board of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Eskender Bariiev recalls.

Bariiev notes that the actions of the representative body of the Crimean Tatars and the entire Crimean Tatar people in those days were very important and significant. So, on March 15, 2014, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, on the initiative of Bariiev, adopted an appeal to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the entire Ukrainian people. And thanks to this appeal, on March 20, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine recognized the Crimean Tatars as the indigenous people of Crimea, and the Mejlis and Kurultai of the Crimean Tatars as representative bodies of the people.

“The fact that the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and all Crimean Tatars, by their appeal, self-determined that they support the sovereignty of the Ukrainian state, is an important and necessary tool throughout these 9 years of struggle”,- Bariiev notes.

“On March 16, 2014, personally with my brother Anatolii Kovalskyy, I was in the basement of the military registration and enlistment office in Simferopol, where we were forcibly held by Russian agents and collaborators. On the night of 16/17, the Crimean Berkut guards mocked us as prisoners, betraying the oath of Ukraine and going over to the side of the enemy, the aggressor country of the Russian Federation”,- says Andrii Shchekun, representative of the Regional Council of Ukrainians of Crimea, coordinator of the Humanitarian Policy group of the Crimean Platform expert network.

Andrii Shchekun believes that the consequences of that day should be analyzed and conclusions drawn. It is important to document all the anti-state actions of that day. This must be done professionally in order to provide a legal framework with facts for the future consideration of the case in the International Tribunal, which should be formed and consider cases of Russian crimes on the territory of sovereign independent Ukraine.

The expert emphasizes that even then the occupants understood that they did not have the proper support for their plan among the population of Crimea: that is why the date of the referendum” was postponed several times from May 25 to March 16. But even this did not help them much: according to the Russian special services, no more than a third of the population of the Crimean peninsula took part in the farce called the all-Crimean referendum, although the occupiers are constantly trying to spread lies about the participation of the vast majority of the population – more than 80%.

“The majority of UN members supported Ukraine in its assessment of this referendum and on March 27, 2014 adopted UN General Assembly resolution 68/262 on non-recognition of the legality of this “referendum” and supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders. In fact, they confirmed: Crimea is Ukraine!”,- the lawyer notes.

“It is ridiculous to say, as the Kremlin inmates like to do, that, they say, in 2014 Crimea made its historical choice in favor of Russia. Despite the fact that pro-Russian sentiments have always been noticeable in Crimea (well, how could it be without them, since after the expulsion of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people in 1944, Moscow settled the peninsula with immigrants from the interior regions of Russia), the number of supporters of the Russian status of Crimea at the end of 2013 among the inhabitants Crimea did not exceed 30-34%,” emphasizes the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov.

International lawyer, former representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Borys Babin notes that the fakes of the aggressor with the criminal Crimean referendum of 2014 have never been perceived by the states and peoples of the world as having anything to do with the expression of will or democracy.

“The repetition of this farce in the dimension of the same criminal referendums during the attempted annexation by Russia of the four mainland regions of Ukraine in 2022 is direct evidence that the Kremlin’s aggression, Nazism and imperialism can and must be stopped without delay”,- he adds.

Now the ninth anniversary of the occupation of Crimea and the year of the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine have passed. The Crimean Tatar Resource Center calls on the international community and international organizations to increase pressure on the Russian Federation and the occupation authorities of Crimea in order to de-occupy the peninsula and all territories of Ukraine.

We fought then, we will win now!