These are the “green men” (Russia's “little green men,” as the unmarked Russian soldiers were called, seized Crimea's local parliament in 2014, - ed.). Allegedly, the forces of “self-defense of Crimea,” which in the end turned out to be false.
And this is Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that Russia in no way takes part in what is happening on the peninsula. As a result, in his own words, it turned out that it does take.
This is current "head" of Crimea Sergey Aksionov. Back in 2012, he opposed the transition of the Crimea to Russia. Afterward, he has radically changed his position.
Five years ago, on March 18, 2014, an agreement on the "inclusion" of Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation was signed in Moscow. It was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and three key collaborators – Sergey Aksionov, Vladimir Konstantinov, and Alexey Chaly.
Thus, the annexation process has re-launched to a legal dimension. The annexation was not bloodless, as it was commonly believed.
Who died during the annexation of Crimea?
At least two people.
On March 15, the body of Reshat Ametov was found; he was the first victim of the annexation. On March 3, 2014, he took part in a peaceful protest on Lenin Square in Simferopol. Later a video of his detention by members of the so-called "self-defense" of Crimea appeared on the Internet. Nothing has been known about the fate of Ametov for about two weeks. Then his mutilated body was found in the village of Zemlyanychi.
The second of the known victims was Serhiy Kokurin, warrant officer of the Ukrainian military unit in Crimea. He was killed by two shots (in the head and in the heart) from AK-47 during the storming of the 13th photogrammetric center in Simferopol.
Key dates for annexation
February 23, 2014
Rally with Russian flags in Sevastopol. The protest "against fascism in Ukraine" was held. At the rally, it was decided not to send taxes to Kyiv and create "self-defense units."
February 24 -25, 2014
Blocking of entrances to Sevastopol by Russian armored personnel carriers. Involvement of the military of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. The Russian flag was hung in Simferopol on the building of the Verkhovna Rada.
February 27, 2014
The seizure of the building of Crimean Verkhovna Rada and the Ministers’ office by unmarked armed people, the so-called "green men."
The Presidium of the peninsula’s parliament removed Anatoliy Mohyliov from his post, appointed Sergey Aksionov as the head of the Council of Ministers and scheduled a referendum on May 25.
March 2-6, 2014
The date of the referendum was re-scheduled from May 25 to March 30. Then it was re-scheduled again; to March 16. The blocking of Ukrainian military bases began.
March 11, 2014
Declaration of Independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol was adopted.
March 16 - 17, 2014
Conducting an illegal referendum and the adoption of the decree "On Independence."
March 18, 2014
The signing of the agreement "On the inclusion" of Crimea in the Russian Federation.
Then there were mass blockings and seizures of Ukrainian ships in Crimea. And the gradual withdrawal of the Ukrainian forces from the peninsula.
How have Putin's statements regarding the annexation changed?
Journalist: People who carried out blocking of Ukrainian units in Crimea wore uniforms very similar to the Russian form, were they Russian soldiers?
Putin: Look at the post-Soviet space. There are many uniforms that look like that one, if you go to the store, you will buy any form.
Journalist: So, these were Russian troops?
Putin: These were self-defense forces.
The threats against the Russian-speaking population were absolutely concrete and tangible. It was this that prompted the Russian-speaking citizens who live there to think about their future and turn to Russia for help.
Then Putin stressed that no operations were prepared.
We never hid it – our armed forces, frankly, blocked the armed forces of Ukraine, located in Crimea.
I told all my colleagues, and there were four of them: the situation in Ukraine forces us to begin work on returning Crimea to Russia. Because we cannot abandon the territory and the people who live there, to the mercy of fate the nationalist rink.
Not so many people expected that we would act so quickly and decisively, if not to say boldly. Our opponents, our partners, have developed very correct tactics. And they tactically achieve their goals to a certain extent. But I think that in the long run we still win.
Quote from Sergey Aksionov, March 16, 2019
None of this would have happened if our president, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, personally, did not lead this operation...
The world community did not recognize the act of annexation.
“Russia’s so-called “referendum” at the barrel of a gun in Crimea five years ago was a farce rightfully condemned by the international community. Crimea is Ukraine,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino.
"We have never recognized and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation," said EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.
“Five years ago, Russia used force against Ukraine to illegally annex Crimea. This violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a serious violation of international law and a serious challenge to Euro-Atlantic security. We strongly condemn this act, which we did not recognize and would not do it," reads the statement of the Alliance.
Analysts at Bloomberg Economics estimate that sanctions have knocked as much as 6 percent off Russia’s economy over the past five years. A study published by analyst Scott Johnson late last year found that the economy of the world’s biggest energy exporter is more than 10 percent (or $150 billion) smaller compared with what might have been expected at the end of 2013. Four percentage points of that come from the drop in oil prices, but sanctions and other factors are to blame for the rest.
A lot of political prisoners are kept on the peninsula. Local Crimean Tatars declare about regular searches and harassment. The peninsula itself is heavily militarized. And Sergey Aksionov is happy that Sudan, Congo, and Niger called on the West to lift sanctions.