Just over a year ago, elements of the Russian armed forces, masked and outfitted in unmarked uniforms, seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in clear violation of international law. Subsequently, Russian-backed local authorities conducted an illegal, unconstitutional referendum, immediately followed by a declaration of independence from Ukraine by the newly-installed Supreme Council of Crimea. On March 18th the Russian Federation’s attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula was announced.
From beginning to end, Russia’s conduct in this process has been contrary to various treaties and international instruments, including the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. In this Memorandum, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom reaffirmed their obligations under the UN Charter to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. They also reaffirmed their similar commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under the terms of the Helsinki Final Act.