The history is complex, but there's no doubt Crimea is part of Ukraine
Your report from Sevastopol, "the historic home of Russia`s Black Sea fleet", gave the impression that Ukraine should be feeling guilty because the Crimean peninsula falls within its own territory (Divided peninsula plays host to Russian warships and Ukrainian pride, September 16)...
Response of Ihor Kharchenko, ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom, to Guardian`s article
Your report from Sevastopol, "the historic home of Russia`s Black Sea fleet", gave the impression that Ukraine should be feeling guilty because the Crimean peninsula falls within its own territory (Divided peninsula plays host to Russian warships and Ukrainian pride, September 16).
"On the streets of Sevastopol, the mood is defiantly pro-Russian," you report. "It is also vehemently opposed to Ukraine`s President Viktor Yushchenko and his plans to join Nato." You then go on to quote several locals who claim that Crimea should be part of Russia, with no counterbalance. One of these, an MP in Crimea`s parliament, goes on to question the status of Ukraine itself. "It`s a myth that Ukraine is not part of Russia," he says. "We don`t believe it."
It is true, as you say, that the decision of the then Soviet authorities in 1954 to incorporate Crimea into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic is still is regarded as a mistake by some Russians as well as some Ukrainians. Moreover, in the list of historical "invaders" of Crimea one may find Scythians, Greeks, Ottoman Turks, Russians, even British and French, but no Ukrainian trace at all. So it may appear surprising that Crimea belongs to Ukraine.
However, the history is complex, and the fact is that the Crimean Autonomy is now a constituent part of Ukraine. Since 1954 this status has been reconfirmed twice - in the treaties between Russia and Ukraine of 1990 and 1997, stipulating the inviolability of existing frontiers. Probably that is why the Russian official you quote says firmly that Russia "doesn`t lay any claims on Sevastopol".
Probably one other reason is the fact that, back in 1993, the Russian parliament tried to revisit the issue of Sevastopol`s affiliation and put the city, by means of parliamentary decree, back into Russian sovereignty.
The Ukrainian government sought advice from the UN security council, and I was a part of its delegation. On July 20 1993 the security council adopted a statement stressing that "in the treaty of 1990 Russia and Ukraine committed themselves to respect each other`s territorial integrity within their currently existing frontiers", and adding that the Russian decree "is incompatible with this commitment as with the principles of the charter of the UN, and without effect".
Given current events on Russia`s borders, it is surely ill-advised for you to speculate that "staging a coup in Sevastopol would be easy".
Your report mentions "optimists" who "believe talk of Russia wrestling back Crimea from Ukraine is simply overblown". It is said that pessimists in fact are well-informed optimists. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic and dare to believe that optimists on the issue are in the vast majority in both Ukraine and Russia.
In 1993 the UN security council`s note ended with a statement that "the security council will remain seized of the matter". Irrespective of that, optimists hope that the security council won`t ever need to look into the matter again.