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The Russian Navy's Ropucha-class landing ship Kaliningrad arrives at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, February 10 2022. Picture: RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/REUTERS
The Russian Navy's Ropucha-class landing ship Kaliningrad arrives at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, February 10 2022. Picture: RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/REUTERS

British high commissioner to SA Antony Phillipson referred in his letter to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014. (“Comparison by Russian embassy is absurd”, February 3). 

It appears that Phillipson is unaware of Russia’s long control of Crimea from 1783 until 1954. Under Catherine the Great Russia defeated the Ottoman Empire and annexed the territory.  

In 1954 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukranian himself, transferred Crimea from Russia to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, despite the change in the political status of the peninsula ethnic Russians remained the overwhelming majority of the population. 

Thus Russia has a far stronger claim to Crimea than the US has to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba or Britain has to Gibraltar, the Malvinas (Falklands) or the Chagos Islands. 

With reference to the latter, it is rather rich of Phillipson to label Russia’s reoccupation of Crimea illegal when his own government has — in flagrant violation of international law — ignored three international judgments that require Britain to surrender the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, and to allow the forcibly exiled Chagossians the right of return. 

The most recent judgment was that of the International Court of Justice in 2019, which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 116 to six. 

Gunvant Govindjee 
Ormonde

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