Question: Mr Ambassador, could You elaborate on why Ukraine insists on returning Crimea if Russia claims this Peninsula as its territory?
The assertions about allegedly "historical belonging" of Crimea to Russia are totally groundless. This myth was made up by ideologists of the Russian Empire, and later it was developed by the "Soviet imperialists" and so actively promoted by Russian propaganda that it penetrated in other countries as well.
But let's get this straight. If we don’t take the ancient times when this Peninsula was inhabited by ancient tribes, was a Greek colony or a part of the Roman Empire, and if we consider only the real historical perspective, then the first nation in Crimea is the Crimean Tatars who lived there for hundreds of years before the seizure of the Crimean Khanate in 1783 by Russia under the motto “to get a revenge " for all hurts and wounds inflicted by "Crimean predators". Till that moment there had been no Russians on the Peninsula, but maybe prisoners of war. In a similar way later the Russians conquered and annexed Ukraine, Lithuania, part of Poland, Finland, Central Asia... This list could be continued further and even China can be on this list! Exactly so! As you known, in its time Russia used a moment when Chinese empire was weakened, and seized huge Chinese territories, a vast number of which has never been returned.
But let us go back to Crimea. During the World War II, without any grounds or evidence, Moscow accused all the Crimean Tatars of collaboration with Nazis and deported them to far Kazakhstan and Siberia. Russians were resettled to live in their homes. Unlike the Crimean Tatars, the newcomers turned out unable to cultivate the soil in a very dry climate. Recognizing the economic losses of such a distant region and due to lack of water, in 1954 Moscow initiated the transfer of the Peninsula under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. The Ukrainian leaders, by the way, were not happy at all about it. They knew how much resources and efforts were needed to develop an economy on the Peninsula. I want to make a special stress now: Russia ceded Crimea to Ukraine in a strict compliance with the law. It was neither a present, nor a gift.
"Return" of territories under the pretext of "restoration of historical justice" is an extremely dangerous slogan, since it completely contradicts international law and can cause terrible consequences. Guided by this slogan, the Russians can easily claim many areas that once belonged to the Russian Empire. For instance, the Russians may as well declare that as Harbin or Dalian cities were built by subjects of the Russian Empire, they "have always been Russian cities." It’s nonsence, isn’t it? But with the Crimean Peninsula, it happened exactly this way: a myth, a lie and a twist of historical data used to justify neo-Imperial ambitions triggered a real tragedy.