February 26th: Crimea's Day of Resistance against the Russian Occupation

Canan Kevser
26 February 2021, 11:
Canan Kevser
26 February 2021, 11:

Seven years ago, on February 26, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol were illegally annexed by the Russian Federation, and the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine began.

Ukraine annually marks the "Day of Resistance to Russia’s Occupation of Crimea" on February 26.

Seven years ago, on February 26, 2014, several thousand Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists rallied in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and against holding an extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea in Simferopol.

About 12,000 Crimean Tatars gathered near the building of the Crimean parliament by the call of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. They were holding their national flags and the flags of Ukraine. Protesters chanted: "Crimea is Ukraine!, Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes!" The Russian Union party led by Sergei Aksyonov, a henchman of Russian occupants, organized a counter-rally to oppose the peaceful protesters.

On February 20, Russian troops began to occupy Crimea. The trucks without number plates and the so-called "green men" [masked soldiers in green army uniforms without any badges by carrying modern Russian military weapons and equipment] appeared on the peninsula. At the same time, the irregular armed formations of mercenaries from among the local residents, led by officers of the special services and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, were created and provided with weapons.

On February 26, two people were killed while several dozen people were injured in clashes. Subsequently, after Crimea had been illegally occupied, the Russian investigation committee instituted a criminal case over the clashes (the so-called "case of February 26") and arranged a political trial against Akhtem Chiygoz, Mustafa Degermendzhi, Ali Asanov, and other Crimean Tatar activists.

The very next day, February 27, the special forces of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation seized the premises of the Verkhovna Rada and the Council of Ministers of Crimea. At the same time, the parliament of Crimea announced holding a referendum on Crimea’s accession to Russia, upon the invaders' order. The referendum was planned to be held on May 25, but then it was postponed to March 16.

Over the next few days, the streets and main roads of the peninsula's towns were overwhelmed with Russian troops. The so-called "green men" seized the administrative buildings, besieged the garrisons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, seaports, and airports.

The leadership of Russia repeatedly argued that those armed people were not Russian servicemen. However, after the peninsula had been occupied and the fake and illegal "referendum on the status of Crimea" had been held, Russia admitted that the "green men" were the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

On March 1, 2014, the Federation Council of Russia supported president Putin's appeal on permission for using the Russian Armed Forces in the territory of Ukraine. In turn, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine gave the order to put the Armed Forces of Ukraine on full combat alert in response to the Russian aggression.

On March 16, 2014, the so-called "referendum on the status of Crimea" was held on the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol. In two days, on March 18, 2014, the Kremlin signed the so-called agreement on the accession of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation.

To date, all influential international organizations have declared the occupation and attempted annexation of the peninsula illegal and condemned Russia's actions. In particular, during this period, nine UN resolutions on Crimea have been adopted. Also, a number of Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

Seven years have passed, the situation in the occupied Ukrainian peninsula remains tense. The occupying power is implementing terrorist methods and intimidation practices on the local population.

Currently, the activities of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People are banned in Crimea. The repressions, raids on homes and illegal detentions take place on a regular basis. The aggressor state cynically disregards fundamental human rights and freedoms and international law.

Indigenous people of Crimea, Crimean Tatars, and representatives of other nations, who remained loyal to Ukraine, still held captive by the Russian occupiers. The Crimean peninsula was turned into an "open prison" and also into a military base threatening the world. Those who are loyal to Ukraine, particularly the Crimean Tatars, are being kidnapped, killed, detained, jailed, prohibited from, entering Crimea.

In 2020, Ukraine decided to initiate the "Crimean Platform" to unite efforts to liberate Crimea from the Russian occupation.