On 11 March 2014 Crimea declared independence. Ukraine and international society has not recognised that act. However Crimea’s independence was recognised by Russia and on 18 March 2014 an agreement on the accession of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation was signed. Many countries and international organisations have condemned that step, viewing it as illegal annexation. Regardless of how this situation is treated however, it is at present a fait accompli. Such a situation evokes legal consequences both in the internal law of Ukraine and Russia as well as on the plane of international law. The residents of Crimea appear to be in the worst situation. Legal certainty is a fiction for them now. There are also problems on the international plane. Despite the fact that in the opinion of international society Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine, in practice there are many conflicting problems of a legal nature that cannot be solved, at least for the time being. This article analyses the legality and certain legal consequences of the “accession” of Crimea to Russia and the effect of this accession on the legal situation for residents of Crimea. The article concludes that legal situation of Crimeans will not improve anytime soon, and that the legal problems which have arisen on the international plane will not be resolved soon either.
The international community anxiously awaited delivery of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Kosovo’s declaration of independence, hoping it would clarify the controversial right of self-determination and the right of secession. Although it was hailed by many as a confirmation of both rights, the advisory opinion was disappointing regarding that part of the analysis which was based on general international law. The ICJ interpreted the question posed in a very narrow and formalistic way. It concluded that declarations of independence (not their consequences) are not in violation of international law, but it did not rule that they are in accordance with international law, as was requested in the posed question. The ICJ refused to examine whether there is a positive entitlement to secession under international law. Although Kosovo and its supporters claimed that the case of Kosovo is unique and will not set a precedent, Russia used the case of Kosovo and the advisory opinion to justify the so-called referendum in Crimea and the subsequent incorporation of Crimea into Russia. However, the situation in Crimea is only superficially comparable to Kosovo and the advisory opinion gives little or no support in the case of Crimea