China respects the sovereignty of all former Soviet republics, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning assured reporters at a news briefing on Monday.
“After the demise of the Soviet Union, China was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the [newly created] countries,” Mao said, when asked by a TASS reporter to comment on Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye’s remark about Crimea. “Since the inception of diplomatic relations, China has always adhered to the principle of mutual respect and equal treatment while fostering bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation. China respects the sovereign status of the republics that were founded after the Soviet Union disintegrated,” she added
Mao described China’s position on Ukraine as clear and consistent. “We are ready to continue working with the international community to make our contribution toward finding a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis.”
On Friday, France’s LCI television posted a quote from Lu’s interview on its Twitter page. Commenting on the status of Crimea, the envoy said that “Crimea was originally part of Russia” but that it had been administratively transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by Soviet statesman and party leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. The Chinese ambassador also said that former Soviet countries “do not have any current status, as we say, under international law, because there is no international agreement under which their status as sovereign countries could be substantiated.”
Following the publication of these comments, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia summoned Chinese diplomats from Beijing’s missions to their countries to their respective foreign ministries for clarifications. Formally, China does not recognize Crimea as Russian.
After a coup in Ukraine in February 2014, the governments of Crimea and Sevastopol held a referendum on the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. The overwhelming majority of voters supported reunification (96.7% in the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% in the City of Sevastopol), with turnout reaching 80%. On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty for the formal accession of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol to Russia as constituent regions, and three days later the document was ratified by the Federal Assembly, the Russian parliament.