20 years under Putin: a timeline

The annexation of Crimea is now complete. Two entities, the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, have become part of Russia. However, the global community has not and will not recognize the annexation of the peninsula, carried out as it was “at gunpoint.” According to political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya, the key issue here is not Russia’s isolation from the international community, but the long process the Kremlin faces in integrating the new territories into the state—a process that will be accompanied by various political, legal, financial, and economic problems.



The annexation of Crimea was carried out hastily, which means the Kremlin made its management decisions without evaluating the situation and considering the consequences. Only one factor can explain this haste: the Kremlin was afraid to miss the right moment and lose its initiative in the case of destabilization along the Crimean border. One accidental shot by any party could have led to chaos, compelling Russia to turn to force, which would have resulted in the debunking of the official myth that there were no Russian military forces on the peninsula.

As a result, hasty decisions were made that did not quite fit in with Russia’s political and legal reality. For example, from the legal point of view, the peninsula’s new status as a republic is a point of controversy. Only ethnically based regions have the status of national republics within Russia. Based on constitutional and historical practice, then, Crimea should have become a region. Crimea will from now on have to fit into the “power vertical” and put up with the central government’s control over economic, political, and personnel decisions.

In addition to addressing these issues, the Kremlin will inevitably try to impose discipline on the local elite, who are now rejoicing in the naive belief that Putin’s support will last long. The Kremlin, however, fully realizes what kind of people are now governing Crimea: both Prime Minister Sergei Aksenov and Speaker of the Crimean Parliament Vladimir Konstantinov have controversial reputations as second-rate thugs, to say the least.

All in all, the Russian government has set a timeline of a year and a half for Crimea’s political integration. Parliamentary elections in Crimea and Sevastopol will be held in September 2015, on the same date as Russia’s nationwide voting day. The new parliament of each entity will then have to adopt, respectively, the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and the charter of the city of Sevastopol, after which executive bodies will be formed in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation. Crimea’s courts will continue to function until the activity of the judicial bodies of the peninsula can be brought in line with the current Russian legislation. Both Crimea and Sevastopol’s courts of appeal and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation will be considered the supreme judicial authorities in the region. Taxes collected in Crimea and Sevastopol will go toward the local budget until January 1, 2015, after which the Russian tax laws will come into effect.

The transitional period will officially end on January 1, 2015. In reality, however, “transitional period” is just an elegant term used to veil the chaos that is beginning to break out in Crimea. Multiple cases of property redistribution, forceful takeovers, murders, and robberies have been reported. Under the current circumstances, Russia is faced with the dual task of maintaining control over the process and retaining the loyalty of both the elite and the population..

The annexation of Crimea is only the beginning of a long process of adaptation that is likely to be fraught with many problems. The appearance of two new political entities within Russia may turn out to be not a geopolitical victory, but a slow-acting poison that will destroy the regime from within.

Two influential figures will be responsible for supervising the region. Oleg Belaventsev, Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu’s protégé and former head of the OJSC Slavyanka corporation, was appointed presidential envoy to the newly formed Crimean federal district. Belaventsev’s key responsibility will be to modernize and strengthen Russia’s military forces in Crimea.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Kozak, one of the toughest technocrats in Russia today, who was previously responsible for the Olympic preparations, will now be in charge of supervising Crimea on behalf of the Russian government. As a former presidential envoy for the North Caucasus, Kozak was personally involved in solving interethnic conflicts. He was the one responsible for the economic recovery of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia.

Kozak has also been given the task of preventing the federal budget funds that will be allocated for the incorporation of Crimea from being embezzled. The amounts projected to flow to the republic are expected to be quite large. In an interview with Kommersant, Russian Minister of Regional Development Igor Slyunyayev said that Crimea’s infrastructure is run down, that government grants account for more than 40 percent of the region’s budget, that the peninsula receives around 80 percent of its water from the Dnieper River via the North Crimean Canal, and that it imports 80 percent of its electricity. According to the minister, it will take two to three years to incorporate the new region into the Russian economy.

In order to solve the problem of Crimea’s energy deficit, the Russian government has suggested increasing gas production on the peninsula by one and a half to two times in the next few years. It is also possible that Russia will incorporate Crimea’s energy establishment into its energy system. As for the possibility of using Ukrainian energy and water systems in Crimea, apparently no decision has been made yet, nor will one be made anytime soon. This means that Crimean residents are looking at a tough transitional period with frequent water and electricity shortages.

The Kremlin, however, has promised Crimean residents as well as Russian citizens “heaven on earth” on the peninsula, including the establishment of a special economic zone, the development of a world-class resort, and, essentially, the elimination of all social problems in the territory. Russian taxpayers, however, will have to provide for all of this, although apparently they do not yet realize how such efforts will eventually affect their wallets.

Finally, the last major issue that Russia will face in Crimea is the strong ethnic opposition of Crimean Tatars. Despite Putin’s efforts, the Crimean Tatar diaspora has recognized neither the legitimacy of the referendum in Crimea nor the legitimacy of the annexation of the peninsula. At Putin’s instruction, former president of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev met in Moscow with Mustafa Dzhemilev, one of the most influential leaders within the Crimean Tatar community and head of its Majlis from 1991 to 2013. Shaimiev tried to convince Dzhemilev to support the Russian annexation of Crimea. After this meeting, Putin himself called Dzhemilev in an attempt to reach an agreement. Dzhemilev, however, took an extremely tough stance and publicly declared that he did not and would not trust the Kremlin. In his many interviews with the press, Dzhemilev has demanded that Russian troops be withdrawn from Crimea, that the referendum be boycotted and its results not be recognized, and that the territorial integrity of Ukraine be respected.

The Kremlin, however, is celebrating its victory, rejoicing at having incorporated an “essentially Russian territory.” Few realize that a precedent has been set that may prove destructive for the territory of Russia itself. The annexation of Crimea is only the beginning of a long process of adaptation that is likely to be fraught with many problems. The appearance of two new political entities within Russia may turn out to be not a geopolitical victory, but a slow-acting poison that will destroy the regime from within.