Two members of Russia’s State Duma have submitted a bill that seeks to revoke Khrushchev’s decision to transfer Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR), and retroactively return the Peninsula to Russia.

Crimea became part of Russia in 1783 when it was annexed following the defeat of Ottoman forces at the Battle of Kozludzha. In 1954 the Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the UkrSSR.

Although Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is credited with the decision to transfer the peninsula it was approved by the Presidium of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in January 1954, three weeks before the transfer took place.

The “official” reason given at the time according to Mark Kramer, the Director of Cold War Studies at Harvard University, was that this “noble act on the part of the Russian people” commemorated the 300th anniversary of the “reunification of Ukraine with Russia” through the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav between the Ukrainian Cossack Hetmanate and Tsar Aleksei I.

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Ironically in the light of recent events, the gift of Crimea was said to be further evidence of “the boundless trust and love the Russian people feel toward the Ukrainian people.”

The draft bill has been submitted on behalf of both of Russia’s houses of parliament by Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy chairman of the committee of the State Duma for the CIS, and Sergei Tsekov, a former Ukrainian politician, who is now a Russian Senator for Crimea.

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The announcement was made by the head of occupied Crimea, who said the parade would be replaced by different “festive events” to “honor the memory of those who died.”

The bill claims the 1954 transfer was in violation of the constitutions of both RSFSR and UkrSSR contrary to the rule of law and was illegal because no referendum was held and Soviet authorities had no right to transfer territory from one constituent republic to another without the consent of its people.

The move is timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which most international authorities have deemed illegal. This is the third time in the following ten years that Zatulin has tried to establish a legal basis for Russia to argue that Crimea was never legally part of Ukraine to begin with.

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Grigory Mashanov, a lawyer working for the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International dismisses the move which he categorizes as a PR exercise on behalf of the two deputies designed to curry favor with President Putin ahead of the tenth anniversary of the annexation of Crimea.

Putin himself denounced the 1954 handover of Crimea as a violation of legal norms in place at the time in his July 2021 article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” which was part of his justification for his 2014 actions and the launch of his 2022 so-called “special military operation,” less than a year later.

This overlooks the fact that Crimea residents voted in favor of independence and unity with Ukraine in the 1991 referendum held on the breakup of the Soviet Union, after which Russia and Ukraine agreed to recognize each other's borders.

After seizing Crimea in 2014, Russia has greatly militarized the peninsula along with its annexation of four further Ukrainian provinces. Moscow has used Crimea as a launchpad for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and subsequent attacks on southern Ukraine. Kyiv has vowed to recapture all the territory currently occupied by Russia, including Crimea.

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