Gorbachev: West has accepted Crimea as part of Russia

(Beta/AP, file)

Gorbachev: West has accepted Crimea as part of Russia

MOSCOW -- Former leader of the USSR and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev says he believes the West has accepted the decision of Crimeans to join Russia.

Asked by the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily whether the West has accepted the fact that Crimea is now part of Russia, Gorbachev responded, "I think so."

"My opinion is that the West has reconciled itself with that," the news agency TASS quoted Gorbachev as saying.

He added that the current crisis in Ukraine came as a consequence of "the hasty breakup" of the Soviet Union after the so-called Belavezha Accords signed by the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian leaders in 1991.

"When the Belavezha Accords were being discussed, they should have definitely returned to the issue of Crimea. Russia must not be torn away from Crimea. It is her child," Gorbachev stressed.

The peninsula of Crimea was in 1954 given to Ukraine - then a Soviet republic - by Nikita Khrushchev, "as a gift." The territory joined the Russian Federation after a referendum conducted in March.

Gorbachev added that "the historic referendum" had corrected the mistake of the Soviet era, "and their will should not be punished by sanctions."

The former Soviet leader called for reconciliation between Russia and the European Union despite the current tensions in relations over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, TASS reported.

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