Saturday marks three years since Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Crimean leadership signed an agreement on the accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia, after 96 percent of the Crimean peninsula’s population expressed support for the move in a public referendum.
On February 22, 2014, there was a power shift in Ukraine that had the attributes of a coup d'etat. The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, ousted then President Viktor Yanukovych from power, changed the constitution, and set new presidential elections for May 25.
The coup and the rise to power of a new anti-Russia government, triggered rallies in cities in Ukraine's south and southeast in defense of the Russian-speaking population, with many waving Russian flags. In Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the rallies evolved into a strong pro-Russian movement, Sputnik writes.
On February 25, 2014, pro-Russian Crimean residents launched an open-ended rally outside the Supreme Council building demanding that legislators not recognize the new leadership that had come to power after riots and unrest in Kiev. The participants of the rally also called for the restoration of the 1992 Crimean Constitution according to which the republic should have its own president and independent foreign policy. The protesters also called for a referendum for Crimean residents to be able to choose the direction of the region's further development, either as an autonomous republic within Ukraine, or as an independent state, or as part of Russia.
On February 27, 2014, the Supreme Council of Crimea appointed Sergei Aksyonov, leader of the Russian Unity Party, prime minister. The Crimean Supreme Council called for a referendum on expanding the powers of the autonomous republic to be held on May 25, 2014. The referendum was to include one question: "Do you support the state self-determination of Crimea as part of Ukraine on the basis of international treaties and agreements?"
On March 1, 2014, Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said at the new Cabinet's first meeting that he had decided to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in maintaining the lawful constitutional order in Crimea. On the same day, Putin addressed Russia's Council of the Federation for authorization to use Russian military forces on Ukrainian soil in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, until the social and political situation in the country normalized. The initiative was unanimously supported, and the authorization came into force.
The Crimean authorities also decided to speed up the referendum and set it for March 30, 2014. On March 6, 2014, the Crimean parliament voted for the autonomous republic's reunification with Russia. The referendum date was moved to March 16, 2014. Crimean residents were asked two questions at the referendum: "Do you support the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation?" and "Do you support the restoration of the 1992 Constitution of Crimea and the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?"
On March 17, the Supreme Council of Crimea on the basis of the referendum results passed a resolution on the independence from Ukraine. The Crimean parliament also made a proposal to Moscow on the accession of Crimea to Russia.