The head of the Estonian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Marko Mihkelson, said Russia has always wanted to keep Ukraine under its influence, and while it was formerly able to use corrupt politicians to advance its interests, it now has to resort to other measures, including force.
On March 16, 2014, Crimea held a referendum on joining Russia, with returns indicating that close to 97 percent supported the move. The result is widely disputed and Ukrainian authorities have called it illegal, as have Estonia and most other Western nations.
“After the Orange Revolution, Russia started to put together a strategic plan on how to stop the 'color plague' from spreading to Russia," said Mihkelson. "As Ukraine has great importance for the future of Russia as a state, a force and a spectacle - especially for those who dream of a great Russian empire - it was clear that there was a readiness to keep Ukraine under its sphere of influence."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he gave the order for his troops to move in only after Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from Kyiv. Mihkelson said he knew a few weeks earlier that a large Russian force was massed near the Crimean Peninsula and the readiness was there before.
“The Maidan events led to the situation we see today, but it was clear that the operation, including the so-called referendum, had been planned well in advance,” Mihkelson said.
He said Western nations are attempting to resolve the Ukraine crisis through diplomacy, but argued that realistic military aid would give Moscow the necessary signals.
A significant number of Russians see the annexation of Crimea as Putin's greatest achievement. The media in Russia is talking about the difficulties of the changeover, with problems with the pension system, energy connections and transport.
Russia is celebrating the first anniversary of the annexation this week with special lessons on the Crimea in schools and a large concert held on Red Square.
Editor: J.M. Laats