‘Ukraine’s biggest failing is not that it is selling out to Russia but that it has repeatedly missed the chance to reform itself’ according to The Economist in this assessment of the ‘ships for gas’ decision.
The true value of Sebastopol to the Russians is symbolic. A city of Russian glory built by Catherine the Great, it has a big place in the national psyche. Withdrawal from Sebastopol, which was besieged and suffered grievously in the Crimean and “great patriotic” wars, would be a humiliation. Russia’s presence in the Russian-speaking city is also a symbol of wider influence across the post-Soviet space.