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Welcome to the Republic of Crimea, the world’s newest statelet

From its flag to its rich history, here are some key points about Crimea and its independence claim

Published: Updated:

Its borders are patrolled by Russian troops and it adopted the ruble on its first day of independence - welcome to the world’s latest pariah statelet, the “Republic of Crimea.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed on Tuesday a treaty on Crimea officially becoming part of Russia.

Infographic: Welcome to Crimea
Infographic: Welcome to Crimea

Putin signed the treaty with Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov and other Crimean leaders at a ceremony at the Kremlin attended by both houses of parliament. Lawmakers, who still have to ratify the treaty, broke into applause and cheers after the signing.

World leaders have contested the referendum in which Crimea voted to join Russia this week, saying Crimea is part of Ukraine.

Here are some key points about Crimea - an entity about the size of Belgium with a population of around two million people - and its independence claim:

Flag: Like any want-to-be independent state, Crimea already has its own flag - a horizontal blue-white-and-red tricolor that is fast replacing the Ukrainian colors around the peninsula. Adopted by the Crimean autonomous republic of Ukraine in 1992, it bears a close resemblance to the Russian flag.

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Russian base: The naval port city of Sevastopol distinguishes the Republic of Crimea from many other statelets with limited recognition around the world. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which has been based there for 230 years, is estimated to number around 11,000 troops and gives Moscow access to the Mediterranean.

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Currency: As of Monday, Republic of Crimea has two official currencies - the Ukrainian hryvnia and the Russian ruble. Paying in rubles in shops in the main city Simferopol is impossible for the moment, though at least one bank has made the switch and is providing bank statements in both currencies.

Tourism: Crimea’s tourism business is a big part of the local economy and the picturesque city of Yalta - famous also for a 1945 agreement that divided Europe post-World War II - takes in around 10,000 cruise passengers a year alone.

Infographic: Tatars in Crimea
Infographic: Tatars in Crimea

After Sunday’s referendum, separatist prime minister Sergiy Aksyonov’s first thought was about the future of the tourism sector - a major part of the local economy.

“I invite you all to come to Crimea this summer!” he tweeted early on Monday morning, adding: “Let’s focus our efforts on preparing for the high season!”

Self-sufficiency?: Crimea may claim independence but it is hardly self-sufficient, depending on the mainland for 85 percent of its water supplies and 82 percent of its electricity, according to Mikhaylo Gonchar, an energy expert at Kiev’s Nomos Centre.

The company Chornmornaftogaz extracts 1.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Black Sea every year, which just about covers Crimea’s heating and cooking needs.

Crimean pride: Despite the referendum and the authorities’ stated wish to join Russia, some Crimeans would like their peninsula to be neither with Russia nor Ukraine.

The territory has a varied history, with Huns, Venetians, Byzantine Greeks and Ottoman Turks controlling its seaside cliffs and rich farmland over the centuries.