Recently, the journal Foreign Affairs published a commentary by John O’Laughlin, Gerard Toal, and Kristin M. Bakke largely in reaction to the statement published by the State Department, confirming the latter’s opinion that Crimea is Ukraine. Their argument boils down to this:
But when Ukrainian activists and Western politicians claim that the residents of Crimea are “living under occupation,” they mistake the experience of some for the experience of all. The majority of Crimeans do not experience Russian rule as oppressive, alien, or unwelcome.Source
Basically, it does not really matter what the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo thinks. It does not reflect the realities on the ground.
The commentary raised the ire of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who was compelled to write a reaction where he says:
But there are several fundamental problems with measuring popular opinion during an illegal occupation. There is no free environment in Crimea in which one can express political views, especially if those views contradict the Kremlin’s line. Moreover, the people of Crimea have spent more than six years under a heavy barrage of Russian TV propaganda without easy access to alternative sources. Source
Kuleba basically said that the people of Crimea lack agency because of Russian repression, and because of being subjected to Russian propaganda barrage. He goes on to mention the repression of some subversive elements, particularly from the ranks of the Crimean Tatars without telling us that these repressed elements represent a minuscule sample of the Crimean population.
Using the same logic, one may argue that we are unable to objectively measure pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine because people with pro-Russian views, pro-Russian media in Ukraine, Russian TV, Russian social media platforms etc. have been repressed and banned, put in jail, or outright murdered like Oles’ Buzyna.