Some context on Crimea and the seizing of Ukrainian ships by the Russian Federation.

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union died in 1953. It was Nikita Khrushchev who took the reins of leadership over the massive Communist state. Shortly after his elevation to head of the Soviet State, Khrushchev began what is commonly referred to as a “de-Stalinization” period, a major part of which ended in “gifting” the province of Crimea to the Republic of Ukraine in 1954.

As told by the Soviet newspaper Pravda on Feb. 27, 1954:

“Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic, taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic ties between Crimea Province and the Ukraine Republic, and approving the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian Republic Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukraine Republic Supreme Soviet on the transfer of Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic.”

This was an interesting move from the Soviet state considering, in one way or another, Crimea had been part of the greater Russian Empire for over a century. Never the less, it happened. Fast forward to 2014, the Soviet Union has fallen and a new modern superpower known as the Russian Federation stands in its place. On February 27th, unmarked and masked Russian soldiers moved into Crimea and took control of strategic targets including the Parliament building. By March 16th a pro-Russian government had been installed and had declared independence and on the 18th of March 2014, Russia had formally incorporated Crimea into the Russian Federation. To date, the international community has condemned the annexation of Crimea and has refused to recognize it as a part of the Russian Federation.

Over this past weekend yet another Russian provocation has developed, this time on the waters of the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea. Russian forces had fired on and seized 3 Ukrainian naval ships. On Monday, the F.S.B. (Russian Federal Security Service) said that border patrol boats had seized the Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea using weapons to force them to stop. The Ukrainian ships included two smaller armored artillery ships and a tug boat. The ships were supposedly heading to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol via the Sea of Azov after leaving from the city of Odessa. The Azov is landlocked but for the exception of a narrow passage between Russia and the recently annexed Crimea. The waters are supposed to be a shared territory between the two nations according to a treaty signed in 2003. However, after the annexation of Crimea, Russia soon set to work, building a bridge that runs the water gap between Russia and Crimea. To help stop the Ukrainian ships from passing through, the Russians placed a large cargo ship broadside between the bridges underpass effectively blocking the only sea route to there destination. Soon the Russians had captured the ships and there crew. The 24 members of the Ukrainian ships crews are now being held in a 2 month pre-trial confinement.

Many United Nations officials including our very own U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned Russia for the act. Haley called it “another reckless Russian escalation”.

For now this is a developing story and will, I’m sure, continue to evolve throughout the coming days, weeks and months.

Don’t forget to tune in to the upcoming episode of the Salt of the Streets Podcast to hear more on what Don and myself think about the whole situation.