How international law treats Crimea joining Russia

How international law treats Crimea joining Russia
A man rides a scooter past a billboard urging people to vote in the upcoming referendum, which will decide whether Crimea will become part of Russia.

MOSCOW - Western countries have condemned as illegal any moves to make the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea part of Russia through an upcoming regional referendum organised following a military intervention by Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dubbed the possible move "an annexation".

But Russia insists that international law is being respected and President Vladimir Putin has denied that Russian forces have intervened in Crimea.

Here is what legal experts say:

Does Crimea joining Russia violate international law?

"It is an unresolved issue in international law as two principles collide: the right to self-determination and a state's right to its territorial integrity.

"That was precisely the problem in Kosovo," said Sigmar Stadlmeier, the director of the international law department at the University of Linz in Austria.

Crimea's pro-Russian parliament cited Kosovo's controversial precedent when it declared the region's independence on March 11.

The parliament said that Crimea's declaration of independence was "based on the United Nations charter and other international instruments concerning the right of peoples to self-determination."

It also referred to an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice in the Hague which ruled that Kosovo's earlier unilateral declaration had not violated international law.

But Kosovo's declaration of independence had made clear that it represented "a special case" and "not a precedent for any other situation" as well as also prohibiting the new state from joining any other country.

Independence was being proclaimed after "years of violence" against the Albanian population, the declaration said, meaning the situation differed from the crisis in Crimea where no attacks on the Russian community have been recorded.

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