Human rights and freedom of expression in Crimea today are more tightly restricted than in Russia, where the Kremlin cannot exert the same level of control. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, Crimea is nothing more than a domestic propaganda tool, a military asset for exerting influence in the Black Sea, and a potential bargaining chip for his geopolitical chess game with the West, according to the Atlantic Council’s Melinda Haring and Alina Polyakova:
There’s “huge pressure on religious communities,” Taras Berezovets, founder of Free Crimea, said in a May 2015 interview. After Crimea’s annexation, the FSB raided homes, mosques, schools, and churches, forcing religious leaders to flee. Russia extended its stricter laws regulating religious activity to the peninsula….
Between the 2001 and the 2014 census, the number of people identifying as ethnic Ukrainian in Crimea declined from 24 to 15 percent. Many moved to the mainland, while others feared identifying themselves as ethnic Ukrainian in occupied Crimea…..In March 2015, Russia’s FSB charged Crimean journalist Andrii Klymenko with challenging the annexation’s legitimacy and threatening Russian sovereignty by writing a report published by the Atlantic Council and Freedom House. The report showed how Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea has unleashed an ongoing chain of human rights violations across the peninsula.
The Maidan was a powerful demonstration of the Ukrainian peoples’ commitment to democracy and its sovereignty as a European state. That commitment has been challenged by Russian aggression. From this conflict, Ukraine has emerged more unified and more determined to become a full member of the Western community of democracies, the Atlantic Council’s Ian Brzezinski adds.