Published: Feb 26, 2024 Reading time: 2 minutes
Ruští vojáci na Krymu v roce 2014.
© Foto: Anton Holoborodko (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

Many of us vividly recall the date 24 February 2022, when the Russian Federation launched a massive attack on Ukraine, including its capital, Kyiv, intending to occupy the entire territory of the country and overthrow its democratically elected government. However, the war in Ukraine began much earlier, precisely ten years ago, on the night of 26-27 February 2014, when unmarked Russian troops occupied Crimea.

The entire peninsula quickly came under Russian control, and Russia held a rigged referendum as early as 16 March of that year.

According to the official results of this referendum issued by Russia, the turnout was 83.1% of eligible voters, of which 96.8% voted to annex the "autonomous republic of Crimea" and the city of Sevastopol to Russia. However, according to the Human Rights Council's official report, only 50 to 60% of voters voted in favour of joining, and voter turnout is estimated to be between 30 and 50%.

This self-proclaimed republic subsequently declared independence from Ukraine. On 21 March 2014, Russia "met the request of the parliament of the Republic of Crimea" and accepted the entire peninsula, including the city of Sevastopol, into the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian Constitutional Court declared the referendum illegal, and most countries in the world share this view. Russia's annexation of the peninsula by 2019 is recognised by only a few other countries besides Russia.

The inhabitants of Crimea who disagree with the annexation of their territory have landed on hard times. Among the most affected are the Crimean Tatars. According to independent sources, there were at least ten waves of mass arrests in this community in the first 18 months of occupation alone. In 2022, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis, i.e. the parliament of the Crimean Tatars, Nariman Dzhelal, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in a fabricated trial.

However, all democratically-minded people – activists, journalists, politicians and lawyers – are the target of repression. Human rights organisations record dozens of cases of politically motivated trials in which draconian sentences are often handed down. There are currently more than one hundred political prisoners in Crimea.

*Opening photo: Russian soldiers in Crimea,2014, author: Anton Holoborodko (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

Autor: Ondřej Lukáš, Media manager PIN

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