16 German L.J. 365 (2015)
The Annexation of Crimea and the Boundaries of the Will of the People

handle is hein.journals/germlajo16 and id is 374 raw text is: 

The   Annexation of Crimea and the Boundaries of the Will of the

By Jure  Vidnar*


The secession of Crimea  and-more broadly-the conflict in Ukraine reopened questions
concerning the  limits of a democratic expression of the will of the people and the use of
force in order to procure annexation of a territory belonging to another State. This article
seeks to clarify the law governing the change  of the legal status of a territory through
secession  and  merger  with another  state. It argues not  only that  the right of self-
determination  does not grant an entitlement to alter the legal status of a territory, but also
that general  international law  does  not  prohibit such  an  alteration. The  rules of
international law favor the stability of the existing international borders and thus the
territorial status quo, but this does not mean  that a unilateral attempt  at altering an
existing territorial arrangement automatically constitutes an internationally wrongful act.
Any change  of the legal status of a territory becomes illegal, however, upon an outside use
of force. Such an illegality cannot be cured by a democratically expressed  will of the

A. Introduction

On  16 March  2014,  Crimea held  a referendum  on  its future legal status as a territory.
Reports indicated that the choice to join Russia was supported by an overwhelming ninety-
five-point-five percent of all votes cast, with a turnout percentage of eighty-three percent.2
A day earlier, Russia vetoed a draft Security Council Resolution that sought to declare the
referendum  as having no  legal validity and to urge the international community not to
recognize its results? Thirteen members   of the Security Council, with China abstaining,

I Professor of Public International Law, Maastricht University, The Netherlands; Extraordinary Lecturer, Faculty of
Law, UnIversIty of Pretoria, South Africa; Research Fellow, St John's College, University of Oxford, United
I See Crimea Referendum: Voters 'Back Russia Union,' BBC NEWS (Mar. 16, 2014), rttp://www.bbc.com/news
/world-eu rope-26606097.
2 Id.

See  UN Security Council Resolution on Ukraine (C-Span broadcast Mar. 15, 2014), available at http://www.c-

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