| Security

Unease grows in Central Asia as Putin celebrates anniversary of Crimea seizure

Caravanserai and AFP


Motorists parade with their cars decorated with flags to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea, in Sevastopol March 16. [STR/AFP]

Motorists parade with their cars decorated with flags to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea, in Sevastopol March 16. [STR/AFP]

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to Crimea on Monday (March 18) to mark the fifth anniversary of Moscow's illegal annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine.

The Russian leader took part in opening ceremonies for new power stations, met representatives of civil society, and attended celebrations marking five years since Crimea "rejoined" Russia.

On March 18, 2014, Putin signed a treaty with representatives from Crimea to make it part of Russia, two days after a referendum that the international community refused to recognise.


Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a plenary session of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in Moscow March 14. [Kremlin]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a plenary session of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in Moscow March 14. [Kremlin]

Kyiv and the West slammed the move as an annexation, leading to sanctions against Moscow.

In Russia, March 18 has been officially proclaimed as the "Day of Crimea's Reunification with Russia".

NATO on Monday condemned what it called Russia's "ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea", and said there would be no return to "business as usual" with Moscow until there was a "a clear, constructive change in Russia's actions".

The statement said NATO would never recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea and urged Moscow to return the territory to Ukraine.

Concerns grow in Central Asia

Putin's celebration of Russia's illegal actions do not go unnoticed in Central Asia, a potential target of the Kremlin's aggression.

The Kremlin cited the protection of ethnic Russians as a pretext for its invasion of Ukraine, and of ethnic minorities for its war with Georgia in 2008.

Georgia and Russia feuded for years over Tbilisi's bid to join the European Union (EU) and NATO, with the spiralling confrontation culminating in a five-day war in 2008. After the war, Moscow recognised South Ossetia and another separatist enclave, Abkhazia, as independent states, where it then stationed permanent military bases.

In 2008, the West mistakenly believed Russia's war on Georgia "was an isolated move that will not be repeated against other countries", said Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili last August in Tbilisi while marking the 10th anniversary of the Russian occupation.

"And then we witnessed what Russia did in Ukraine in 2014," he said, referring to the Kremlin's support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

As such, concerns about Russian interference have been steadily growing in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan, which has a concentration of ethnic Russians in the north of the country, has undertaken the voluntary resettlement of ethnic Kazakhs from the south to the north.

A climate of fear

Meanwhile, Russia is attempting to stir unfounded fears in other Central Asian countries to justify its military presence on the territory of its allies. Russian forces are still present in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Russian mass media have long been known for their attempts to peddle fear regarding the Taliban, "Islamic State" (IS) or in one recent case -- the United States.

One such alarmist article, "CA [Central Asia] will be subject to attacks by American intelligence services", was published on Sputnik Uzbekistan's website on February 7.

"In the near future, Central Asia and this region will be subject to serious attacks, specific attacks that the intelligence services of the United States are creating for Russia today," said Franz Klintsevich, head of the Russian Union of Veterans of Afghanistan, in a Sputnik Uzbekistan podcast, claiming that US forces were massing Afghan militants for attacks on the Central Asian countries.

Similarly, the Kremlin-controlled Russkaya Vesna (Russian Spring) website published a story last May 16 titled, "A bloodbath looms in Asia: 5,000 IS militants already in Uzbekistan".

Moscow uses such exaggerations as a reason to build up its military bases, such as in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and to maintain control.

The bases were being strengthened "in connection with threats emanating from Afghanistan", Alexander Sternik, Russian Foreign Ministry representative to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), told RIA Novosti in February 2018.

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61 Comment(s)
Comment Policy Captcha
| 2019-07-08

Crimea is an important strategic military base area. Had Putin given it away to the USA, the peninsula would have already be built up with [American] military bases to attack and control the CIS. Will you ever understand?

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| 2019-04-03

No matter how hard Russia tries, it will have to leave Crimea

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| 2019-04-03

Ukraine will prevail. There's no doubt about it. And it'll get back temporary lost Crimea.

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| 2019-04-03

Crimea is Russian.

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| 2019-04-02

Kyrgyzstan is with Ukraine. Crimea will return to Ukraine for sure after this illegal occupation.

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| 2019-04-02

Russia has not been able to occupy Crimea totally. It has not become Russian. It is just a temporary loss. Crimea is Ukraine.

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| 2019-04-02

It is imperative that this pro-Western website be immediately shut down.
Russia will prevail!!!

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| 2019-04-02

People of Central Asia, you are great - you support Ukraine. Crimea has been annexed by Russia and [Russia] will be inevitably punished for that.

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| 2019-04-02

Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia! And even more [Russian] military bases are needed in Central Asia! Glory to Russia!

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| 2019-03-31

Today Russia grabs Crimea and tomorrow it will start eyeing Central Asia. Ukrainians are doing a good job not giving up [the idea to re-take] Crimea.

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| 2019-03-31

If everyone in Kyrgyzstan was for Putin, people would not have protested at the Russian embassy with the posters "Putin is an aggressor" when he came to Bishkek

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| 2019-03-30

Crimea is Ukrainian. There's no doubt about it. Russia better withdraw its troops from there. It would be for everyone's good, including Russia. Also, Russia has to regain lost trust.

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| 2019-04-02

I agree with you

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| 2019-03-29

The world has not submitted to the theft of Crimea. Because it was absolutely a theft. And Central Asian countries do not support stealing of foreign territories.

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| 2019-03-29

I believe Strelkov himself admitted to herding the deputies with automatic rifles. Therefore the referendum was absolutely illegal. There was no single international organization present [at the referendum]. Neither Central Asian countries nor the USA will ever recognise Russian Crimea. It is Ukrainian.

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| 2019-03-29

Who are you to decide if "unease" is growing as the anniversary is celebrated? Did you hold a referendum or what? And your "screaming headlines" look like dung hitting the fan

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| 2019-03-28

Central Asian countries have already started disengaging from the Russian world after the criminal theft of Crimea. Now Ukraine simply doesn't give a damn about Russia. This is the only result Putin and his Vatniks [a derogatory word coined to describe Putin supporters] have achieved

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| 2019-03-28

"Russia is not a country that back stabs. Anyway, Russia and Kazakhstan are allies. Kazakhstan sees no threat of Russian invasion. The Russian public would turn against their own regime if there was such a threat. The public will not support [the invasion]".
However, they back stabbed Ukraine despite calling them brothers :))) Here's the question: what do Kazakhs mean to them if they can destroy even their own flesh and blood? And the Russian people will never turn against their rulers. They are no freedom-loving Ukrainians - the majority of Russians are serfs.

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| 2019-03-28

Russia has lost its image as a prudent country, of course. That treacherous annexation of Ukrainian Crimea is going to take its toll.

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| 2019-03-28

And when is the USA going to return Texas, Nevada, California and other illegally annexed states to Mexico? Take note, they didn't even hold any referendums! :)

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| 2019-03-28

I too consider Crimea rightfully Ukrainian. Why didn't Russia raise objections when Soviet leadership transferred Crimea to Ukraine? Although Russia itself was the leader of the USSR.

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| 2019-03-28

Completely agree! Russia is starting aggressive rhetoric toward Central Asia. It started after the illegal seizure of Crimea.

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| 2019-03-28

Quit this nonsense! Kazakhstan stands with Russia! Everyone in Kazakhstan is friends and lives in peace with Russians and Ukrainians, by the way.

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| 2019-03-27

There's no good attitude towards Russia after the events in Crimea and the Kremlin's aggression.

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| 2019-03-27

That's a pure provocation. The Americans scared of such a great power orchestrated the collapse of the USSR. And the morons ruling the country at the time let that happen!!! If you ask me, life in the USSR was way better. There was justice even though Stalin was a dictator!!!

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| 2019-03-27

Obvious nonsense. No one here is concerned about Crimea or celebrations. Moreover, many folks have no idea about this celebration whatsoever

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| 2019-03-27

Crimea will return to Ukraine!

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| 2019-03-25

Neither Sberbank [a state-owned Russian bank] nor the Postal Service of Russia have come to Crimea to this day. Means, they are scared of sanctions. Therefore Crimea has not become Russian indeed. It remains and will remain Ukrainian for good.

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| 2019-03-25

That's a heresy, poppycock and provocation

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| 2019-03-25

Ukrainians well understood that Russia is an aggressor. They are doing a good job by not letting Russia relax and they will get their Crimea back no matter what.

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| 2019-03-26

Learn the history of Crimea

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| 2019-03-27

Many times now.

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| 2019-03-25

Russia is not a country that back stabs. Anyway, Russia and Kazakhstan are allies. Kazakhstan considers no threat of Russian invasion. Russian public would turn against their own regime if there was such a threat. The public will not support [the invasion].

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| 2019-03-28

All sorts of things can happen in politics. Hence trust but verify.

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| 2019-03-25

Russia has signed its own death warrant by stealing Crimea. And all its neighbouring countries distrust Russia. Turns out there's a reason why this country is called occupant.

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| 2019-03-26

Crimea belonged to Russia initially, you blockhead. And it will remain [Russian]

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| 2019-03-25

Crimea is easy come, easy go for Ukraine. Period.

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| 2019-03-25

I agree!

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| 2019-03-25

Kyrgyzstan is with Russia. We are with Putin.

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| 2019-03-23

When Russia occupied Crimea illegally they counted on Ukraine collapsing and nobody asking Russia about that. And Crimea would be forgotten.
Not on the cards though. No one in the whole will ever submit to the stealing of Crimea and we consider it Ukrainian. Respectfully, Vovvan.

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| 2019-03-23

Crimea is native Russian. That's utter bullshit about Central Asia. Whoever thinks otherwise is a brainless bastard who claims he has political opinions, but disregards obvious facts and historical evidence. Peace y'all!

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| 2019-03-25

The time will come when Russians turn into a minority in Russia and Crimea originally belongs to Crimean Tatars

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| 2019-03-27

Exactly. Crimea is the ancestral domain of Crimean Tatars, it's not Russian.

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| 2019-03-23

China needs Crimea, Russia is only executing [the Chinese plan]. China has a strategy called "The New Silk Road" opposing "The New World Order". Who do you think financed the bridge? China, of course.

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| 2019-03-23

Interesting: what do they celebrate? The sanctions and subsequent poverty that has befallen them after the occupation of Crimea? Those Russians are strange.

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| 2019-03-23

Hello traitors! I see you are working hard for Yank money. It is apparently lucrative if you work so passionately

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| 2019-03-22

Crimea is [part of] Ukraine

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| 2019-03-21

The number of Russians disappointed by the illegal occupation of Crimea has grown drastically, according to polls. Because poverty has come to Russia after [the annexation] of Crimea. Whatever is stolen never makes [the thief] happy.

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| 2019-03-21

Seizing Crimea was the right thing to do! Otherwise your masters would have set up their military bases there. But now no matter how long American ships are sailing in the Black sea [Americans] will have to get out of there empty-handed!

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| 2019-03-21

It's still murky: who is concerned? Names, ranks? That isempty yellow journalism :(((

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| 2019-03-21

A dumb author and accordingly a dumb editor. You are morons. You forgot that it is people in Asia who read your [articles]...

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| 2019-03-21

Piece of information for Pro-Russian zombies out there. When Russia invaded Central Asia, 5,6 million Muslims died during 1859-1944. They have beaten you up like dogs, and now you lick hands of Russians after they throw you a bone. Even though Chechen people, Dagestani have been living under Russian pressure for 200 years now, that they have lost more than 200 000 people in recent wars they would never lick hands of Russians. They put themselves higher than Russians, if needed they use Russians for their needs. (We all know that, Russia has to make billions and billions of investments in to Chechnya in order to hide bloodshed they caused in 1995-2005 to hold back Chechnya.) 3 ruble kielbasa is more than remembrance of millions of ancestors for pro-USSR and pro-Russians. Avid pro-Russians, traitors.

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| 2019-03-20

We respect Russians in Central Asia, whatever you wrote is bullshit. Russia always played an important role in Central Asia but Americans are too full of themselves

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| 2019-03-21

Don't speak on behalf of everyone in Central Asia. [People] consider Russia the occupant that seized foreign territories violating international treaties. Russia must collapse and turn into 21 republics. Then and only then people would be able to live peacefully in the world.

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| 2019-03-22

I am from Central Asia and no one considers Russia an occupant, don't tell me this. You better name the treaties violated by Russia and the territories it seized. I'll tell you one thing: if Russia disintegrated turning into 21 republics, trust me, nothing good would have come out of that for you, that's for sure. But I can tell you, you would be highly likely living the way dictated by the democratic USA

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| 2019-03-23

Russia is an invader

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| 2019-03-20

This deceitful pro-Western website is stubbornly trying to incite strife. Go to hell you scum.

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| 2019-03-20

Dear disrespected Shitserai. You'd better write about the countries with a stationed American contingent! Just to compare...

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| 2019-03-19

Lies! [People] in Central Asia treat Russia well. We are not concerned by the actions of Russia

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| 2019-03-20

That's right

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| 2019-03-23

I am the fourth generation of my family living in Central Asia, raising my children and I can say! There are NO better, friendlier and more hospitable people [than here]. These folks are way more decent and polite than anyone I have ever come across anywhere. Here a guest will always be greeted with tea ☕, flatbread and sary mai [clarified butter] on the table in every house and yurt, even if the hosts have nothing to eat themselves

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