Crimea has its own legislative body - the 100-member Supreme Council of Crimea - and executive power is held by a Council of Ministers, which is headed by a chairman who serves with the approval of the president of Ukraine. The courts, however, are part of the judicial system of Ukraine and have no autonomous authority.
2. Crimea's climate and geography Crimea is surrounded almost completely by the Black Sea, and encompasses an area of about 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers), roughly the size of the state of Maryland. The peninsula is connected to the Ukrainian mainland by the narrow Isthmus of Perekop.
And Crimea - which rests about 200 miles (322 km) northwest of Sochi, Russia - enjoys the same mild, year-round climate as the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The climate is a big reason why Russian leaders are so adamant about keeping Crimea within their sphere: The Black Sea is Russia's only warm-water port.
Though Crimea is recognized worldwide as a part of Ukraine, the Russian Navy has kept its Black Sea Fleet stationed at a naval base in Sevastopol (in southern Crimea) since the late 1700s. In 2010, Russia negotiated an agreement that allows the country to share the all-important Sevastopol naval base through 2042, in exchange for deep discounts of about $40 billion on natural gas from Russia.