Russia marks the first anniversary on Monday (March 16, 2015) of Crimea voting to leave Ukraine and join the Russian state in a referendum blasted as illegal in the West but seen in Moscow as a triumph for President Vladimir Putin.
Here's a recap of the key events and a look at the current situation in Crimea:
Feb 22, 2014:
Three months of protests in Kiev, Ukraine, have led to increasingly bloody clashes in which over 100 people are killed. The protestors are against a decision by the Kremlin-backed government of President Viktor Yanukovych to suspend talks on an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow.
On this day, President Yanukovych - accused of ordering the police to open fire on civilians - flees to Russia and is ousted by parliament. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls an all-night meeting on how to get President Yanukovych out of Ukraine. He also orders his officials to begin working on having Crimea returned to Russia.
Feb 26, 2014:
Clashes break out between pro-Russians and pro-Ukrainians in the capital of Crimea, which is majority Russian-speaking.
Feb 27-28, 2014:
Unidentified uniformed men - later revealed to be Russian troops - and pro-Moscow forces take control of public buildings and military bases in Crimea. The parliament of the autonomous peninsula elects a new local government and votes to organise a referendum on Crimea's status. Kiev's new pro-Western authorities accuse Moscow of an armed invasion and occupation.
March 6, 2014:
The Crimean parliament asks the Russian president for the unification of the peninsula with Russia and brings forward the date of the referendum on the matter from May 25 to March 16.
March 7, 2014:
The Russian parliament says it will support "the historic choice" of Crimea if voters opt for Moscow rule.
March 11, 2014:
Crimea's parliament adopts a declaration of independence to allow its region to be absorbed into Russia.
March 16, 2014:
The referendum is held and voters have the choice of unification with Russia or remaining as part of Ukraine. On the same day, local authorities warn Ukrainian forces stationed in Crimea that they are now considered "occupying forces." Nearly 97 per cent of voters opt to join Russia, according to the Kremlin, in a vote dismissed as a sham by Kiev and the West.
March 18, 2014:
President Putin signs a treaty absorbing Crimea into Russia which Ukraine describes as an annexation.
Sept 14, 2014:
Russia's ruling party United Russia wins an overwhelming majority in regional elections, securing 70 of 75 seats in the Crimean parliament.
Oct 9, 2014:
Mr Sergey Aksyonov is unanimously elected prime minister of Crimea.
What's the current situation in Crimea?
- Crimea has become increasingly isolated after Kiev cut train and airline services to the peninsula, leaving an unreliable ferry to Russia as its sole link to the outside world.
- For many locals, the biggest worry is the spiralling cost of food. Kiev's refusal to recognise the border means it can't legally export to Crimea directly. Most supplies come from Russia by ferry but bad weather can delay shipments for days. Regional government data showed inflation jumped 38 per cent and the cost of food increased by almost a half from March through to December.
- The economy has also been strangled by Western sanctions blocking investment in the peninsula
- The biggest industry tourism is suffering. Government data shows the number of visitors declined by a third last year. "Crimea has a very good chance to become, if not Sochi, at least the number two resort to Sochi. The only unpleasantness here is that bank cards, I'm talking about Visa and Mastercard, do not work, so I would say to anyone thinking of coming here that they should bring plenty of cash," said tourist Andrei Lemeshko.
- However, while many young Crimeans or those who identify themselves as Ukrainian have left the peninsula, complaining about a climate of fear under Russian rule, a poll this month showed 82 per cent of residents support joining Russia. Only four per cent were opposed.
SOURCE: AFP, EURONEWS, REUTERS