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USSR made Crimea Ukrainian in violation of its own laws – official

A local parliament committee plans to ask the Russian Constitutional Court to review whether the 1954 handover was legal

Crimea’s handover to Kiev in 1954, which made the peninsula part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, was facilitated through an unprecedented number of legal violations, Vladimir Konstantinov, the head of the Crimean parliament, told RIA Novosti on Saturday. The senior MP heads a special parliamentary committee tasked with providing a legal review of the process.

The peninsula became part of the Russian Empire in the late 18th century. Previously, it was controlled by the Crimean Khanate for several centuries, which was a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire starting from the 15th century. Following its incorporation into Russia, Crimea was part of multiple Russian regions.

During Soviet times, Crimea was initially a separate autonomous republic within the USSR before becoming part of Soviet Russia – the RSFSR – in 1945.

In 1954, the peninsula was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR by Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev for logistical and economic reasons. This was first facilitated by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which acted as the collective head of state in the USSR, in February 1954. The decision was then approved by the Supreme Soviet – a two-chamber body which possessed legislative powers and was considered the highest state authority in the USSR – in April of the same year.

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According to Konstantinov, the procedure was fraught with legal irregularities and violations. “The sadly remembered handover of Crimea [to the Ukrainian SSR] saw a record level of legal nihilism and negligence to the then-applicable legislation,” he told RIA Novosti, adding that he does not know what prevented the Soviet authorities from making the procedure legal. He did not provide any details about the alleged irregularities, however.

A special committee of the modern Crimean parliament headed by Konstantinov has prepared a complaint which they plan to file with the Russian Constitutional Court to ask it to provide a legal review of the 1954 decision regarding whether it was constitutional.

The senior MP claims that the transfer violated three constitutions – those of the Ukrainian SSR, the RSFSR, and the USSR.

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Crimea automatically became part of modern Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The government in Kiev rejected a number of plebiscites during the 1990s aimed at re-establishing Crimea as an independent republic. In 2014, the people of the region voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to become part of Russia in the wake of the Maidan coup in Ukraine.

Kiev and its Western backers still consider the peninsula to be “illegally annexed” Ukrainian territory. President Vladimir Zelensky said in August 2022 that Kiev would seize Crimea “by any means necessary.” He has also demanded that Russian troops withdraw from the peninsula and other territories claimed by Kiev as a prerequisite for any potential peace talks with Russia amid the ongoing conflict. Russia has dismissed the demands as being detached from reality.

Ukraine launched a major offensive in June 2023 aimed at seizing the former Ukrainian territories now controlled by Russia. The operation failed to bring about any major changes to the front lines, despite heavy losses on the Ukrainian side.

December 23, 2023 at 09:45PM

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