The Russian government reacted with outrage on Wednesday following a declaration from the State Department confirming that Washington would never legitimize Moscow’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea, Ukraine.
The Russian embassy in the United States published an incendiary Facebook post on Wednesday accusing the American government of refusing to accept reality and insulting the people of Crimea.
“The State Department issues declarations and statements on Crimea once every three months. We have heard nothing new,” the statement read in part, according to Russian news agency TASS. “We have only seen it once again that our partners are living in some other reality. They are trying to operate acts of international laws having provisions on the right of peoples to self-determination, ignoring the fact that these very acts were the bedrock for Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014.”
Russia began invading eastern Ukraine in early 2014, insisting that ethnic Russians in the country required support from Moscow. In addition to government support, many of those soldiers entering eastern Ukraine were pro-Russian paramilitaries unofficially affiliated with the government, allowing Russian officials to claim they were not staging an invasion with Russian troops. After moving thousands of ethnic Russians and pro-Russian militiamen into Crimea, the Russian government staged a “referendum” in March of that year where they alleged over 90 percent of those voting chose to leave Ukraine and become part of Russia. Much of the international community has rejected the legality of this referendum, though the Russian embassy in Washington insisted upon it yet again this week.
The embassy also mocked the United States for warning Americans to stay away from Russia due to the frequency with which Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government imprisons suspected dissidents.
“More than 90,000 American football fans had a chance during the 2018 FIFA World Cup to see the irrelevance of the State Department’s recommendations not to visit our country and of the image of Russia foisted by the United States’ mainstream media,” the statement concluded.
Also entering the fray was Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev, who condemned Secretary of State Pompeo for his statement on Crimea.
“Referring to their own experience of not recognizing the absorption of the Baltic republics into the USSR in 1940, [the Americans] ‘took a solemn oath’ to behave in the same way, this time concerning Crimea as part of Russia,” Kosachev said. “American strategists believe (or want to believe) that these two stories are identical and that the strategy, which worked once, is suitable for all occasions. That’s a gross misconception.”
“Crimea is a totally different story. There was no military force, nor was there any coercion. The overwhelming majority of the population supported the return to Russia, strongly and unequivocally, while its opponents were in the minority,” he insisted, claiming that America “opposes the people’s will.”
Russian troops and paramilitaries remain in much of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and fighting continues sporadically. In response to Russian aggression, Pompeo published a statement Wednesday dismissing Russia’s claims to Crimea, which promoted the outrage in Moscow.
“Russia, through its 2014 invasion of Ukraine and its attempted annexation of Crimea, sought to undermine a bedrock international principle shared by democratic states: that no country can change the borders of another by force,” Pompeo wrote. “As we did in the Welles Declaration in 1940, the United States reaffirms as policy its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law.”
“In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored,” Pompeo continued, concluding with a demand that Russia “respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere and to end its occupation of Crimea. As democratic states seek to build a free, just, and prosperous world, we must uphold our commitment to the international principle of sovereign equality and respect the territorial integrity of other states.”
The Trump administration also recently responded to growing tensions in Ukraine by offering Kiev $200 million in training, equipment, and advising to help keep Russia from annexing more territory. The announcement of the new deal followed a meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin last week.