Russia won’t give Crimea back to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response to White House comments that Donald Trump expects Moscow to “return” the peninsular.
“We don’t return our territories. Crimea is a territory of the Russian Federation,” Zakharova said at a weekly news briefing on current foreign policy issues.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that US President Donald Trump has been tough on Russia and expects Moscow to “return” Crimea to Ukraine.
“President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea,” Spicer said. “At the same time, he fully expects to – and wants to – get along with Russia.”
Trump later reiterated his position on Crimea on Twitter.
Earlier in February, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, strongly denounced “the Russian occupation” in Crimea.
“Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” Haley said.
Crimea became part of the Russian Empire back in the 18th century, but was reassigned to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 by the Soviet Union’s ruling presidium. Following the 2014 coup in Kiev, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.
The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or around 58.3 percent of the population, according to the last national census conducted back in 2001. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000) and 12 percent are Crimean Tatars.