Debunking Russian Myths About Crimea Annexation
16 March, 2017

Three years after Russia organized and carried out an illegal ‘referendum’ in Crimea, designed to give the armed annexation of the peninsula the appearance of a legally civilized process, official Moscow and it’s Russian-controlled media still systematically circulate that same myth. They say that Russia took Crimea peacefully, “without firing a single shot”, and “not spilling a drop of blood”. That is simply not true; during Russia’s military occupation of the peninsula, there were shootings, injuries and deaths. Moreover, among them were Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who opposed the secession of Crimea from Ukraine.

The kidnapping and killing of civilians

The blatant terror against pro-Ukrainian Crimeans began a few days after the Russian special forces seized the governmental bodies of Crimea. Not all Crimeans welcomed the Russian tricolor on the streets. One of these concerned residents of the peninsula was Reshat Ametov.

Reshat Ametov, Crimean resident, who was tortured and killed by pro-Russian activists in Crimea

On the morning of March 3rd, 2014, Reshat left the house and told his wife that he wanted to enlist in the army and preserve the integrity of Ukraine. However, it is not known whether or not he managed to get to the already occupied Russian Commissariat. What we do know is that Reshat went to form a one-man picket against the Russian Occupation on Lenin Square, in front of the government building. From there, his actions summoned representatives from the so-called ‘Crimean self-defence’. This is documented on video.

The Kidnapping of Reshat Ametov

The law enforcement, which at that time was still Ukrainian, formally began criminal proceedings. However, neither this nor the public search efforts for missing Ahmetov produced any results. Not until March 15th, 2014 when, in another area of Crimea, Reshat’s body was found. It had numerous traces of severe torture; his head had been wrapped in tape, he had been knocked out and shot in the eye. They then found his handcuffs. The Crimean law enforcement has not found the killers, or at least any suspects, in this case.

And Reshat Ametov was not the only one kidnapped in this way in the spring of 2014.

This and other cases from relatives of the victims and lawyers of political prisoners were brought before the European Parliament on March 15th, 2017. There is no news on the investigations into the abductions of the Crimean soldiers.

Threats, attacks and killings of Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea

It’s true that after the illegal annexation of the peninsula, most of the Ukrainian soldiers serving in Crimea sided with Russia. But it did not happen right away. The military units spent the first half of May 2014 practically under siege by pro-Russian activists, Russian Cossaks and so-called ‘green men’ – Russian militants with no identification marks.

“Officers who had doubts were offered these common ‘benefit packages’ from the Russian intelligence service, they included $200,000 in cash for a unit commander as well as Russian passports for him and anyone he wanted, as well as unhindered entrance to Russia. It meant, if you were trembling for safety, they would move your family away,” – writes Taras Berezovets, a political scientist and an author of the book ‘The Annexation: Crimea Island'. “And, of course, those close to the unit commander received threatening messages.”

Those who hadn’t given up were taken by assault by Russian special forces, they opened fire at barrack windows, threw flashbangs and gas grenades, and beat people up.

The warrant officer, Sergiy Kokyrin was the first Ukrainian military man to die during the annexation.

Sergiy Kokyrin, the first Ukrainian soldier killed during annexation

On March 18th, 2014 Russian servicemen with no identification marks tried to enter the territory of the 13th Photogrammatic Center  of the Central Military-Topographic and Navigation Administration in Simferopol. The area around it was formally controlled by Ukrainian police, but it didn’t stop Russian snipers from getting into position in neighboring buildings. The warrant officer Sergiy Kokyrin was on duty in an observation tower and was shot by a sniper directly in his heart. At that time, the unit commander was badly wounded in his neck. The sniper hasn’t been founded.

The second soldier to die in Crimea during occupation was a major in the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Stanislav Karachevskiy.

Stanislav Karachevskiy, Ukrainian soldier killed during the annexation

On April 6th, 2014 a navy officer in the Black Sea Navy Fleet, Evhen Zaitsev, shot Stanislav with an automatic rifle after a quarrel. This case was taken to court. Evhen Zaitsev was sentenced to two years in a penal colony for killing a Ukrainian soldier. Usually, such sentences are given to those who fail to pay child support.

The torture of pro-Ukrainian activists

On March 9th, 2014 at the railway station, the head of the Crimean civic organization ‘Ukrainiskiy Dim’ (Ukrainian House), Andriy Schekun, and 6 other people were captured by activists from the Crimean self-defense forces. They were kept in basements for 11 days and were subjected to torture. The ears of some activists were cut off and some were shot in their legs and arms with traumatic weapons. Ukrainian activists were only set free on March 20th and were hospitalized immediately.

Andriy Schekyn after his release (right). Photo by Serhiy Kovalskiy

It hasn’t stopped

The kidnapping, torture and killing of people has not stopped in Crimea. The paramilitary groups such as the Crimean self-defense forces are often not the ones who do that – usually, it’s the Russian security forces.

On March 15th, 2017 Crimean Tatar Emil Muhteremov was captured in Feodosiya. His phone was taken away and he was only able to inform them that he was being delivered to the FSB station house. Some hours later, the head of the Mejilis Refat Chubarov was told that security service members had taken Emil to the field and told him to dig a hole, threatening to bury him there. After that, they left Emil out in the open.

by Max Koshelev
translated by Sofia Fedeczko, Liuda Kornievych