International Law Studies
On March 16, 2014 the residents of Crimea woke up in Ukraine, as they had every morning since the dissolution of the USSR at the end of 1991. That evening they went to sleep in what claimed to be the independent Republic of Crimea. They lived in that putative country for the next day. On March 18, the leaders of Crimea signed a treaty merging their day-old country into Russia.
Much had taken place before these three days in March 2014. There were arguments about Ukraine associating with the European Union (EU) or joining a Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. There were warnings by Russia. Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovich surprised his fellow citizens and the European Union when he declared, a few days prior to the signing ceremony, that Ukraine would not sign the association treaty with the EU, after all. There were protests in the Maidan, in other areas of Kiev, and then across most of Ukraine. Troops fired on protesters and people died. Yanukovich fled or was ousted. Separatists fought for control of government buildings in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Almost before anyone realized what was happening, Crimea was held by separatists aided by “polite men” with military expertise and foreign accents.
Borgen, Christopher J., "Law, Rhetoric, Strategy: Russia and Self-Determination Before and After Crimea" (2015). Faculty Publications. 258.