Virtual museum of Russian aggression.

Virtual museum of Russian aggression.



Aggravation of the social and political situation

Shevchenko's days in March are special dates in the Ukrainian calendar. Communities in most cities of Ukraine, including Crimea, would gather by the monuments to the Kobzar [Ed.: another poetic name of Shevchenko; kobzars were itinerant bards in Ukraine], and significant events of social and political life would take place. However, following the Russia's special operation to seize Crimea, the social and political situation on the peninsula has deteriorated dramatically.

The Russian Federation tried to disguise its occupation and pass its actions off as a manifestation of Crimean separatism or radical opposition of the Crimeans to the new government of Ukraine. The Kremlin was illegally moving its troops to the south of Ukraine at the same time carrying out a massive disinformation and propaganda attack aimed at the Crimean population. Simultaneously, Russia was trying to beguile an outside observer by creating the illusion that the residents of Sevastopol held their separatist rallies independently. Back then, on 02/23/2014, the crowd on Nakhimov Square, comprised mostly of disguised Russian servicemen and employees of the enterprises belonging to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, illegally appointed a citizen of the Russian Federation as a so-called "people's mayor" (a non-existent position).

A similar scenario designed to disguise the disruption of constitutional order of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was thwarted on 02/26/2014 by a massive resistance rally organized by pro-Ukrainian activists, primarily the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and the Euromaidan-Crimea movement. The Russian troops had no choice, but to openly seize the main governmental buildings in the ARC. Russian military hardware appeared on the streets of Crimean cities, Russian military and pro-Russian paramilitary groups came to the fore. Some of these groups were mobilized through criminal structures. They began to blockade and seize the Ukrainian military bases and other strategic facilities.

With the armed aggression openly waged by Russia, a significant part of the Crimean establishment and the personnel of the Ukrainian law enforcement bodies turned sides; the pressure on pro-Ukrainian activists intensified. The leadership of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement decided to discontinue the rallies in Simferopol for several days. Crimean Euromaidan activists focused on awareness-building efforts and provision of assistance to the Ukrainian military. The activists feared provocations from the invaders and their accomplices and waited for a response from the official Kyiv to restore the constitutional order.

It soon turned out that Russia was using the lack of public protests to create a media effect that Crimeans unanimously support its aggressive actions. Despite the growing number of threats against pro-Ukrainian activists, the Euromaidan-Crimea movement decided to resume its rallies.

Crystallization point of public resistance to occupation

In early March 2014, rallies for territorial integrity of Ukraine took place in Simferopol in Taras Shevchenko Park – next to the monument of the great Ukrainian poet. This was a symbolic place for the Crimeans. The first bust of Kobzar was installed in the park in 1964. The new one was a gift from the town of Kalush, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, installed in 1997 in front of the arch of the central entrance to the park. The monument is recognized as a cultural heritage site of regional significance, and the area around it is a well-known venue for public events of the Ukrainian community of Crimea. Before the occupation, on official holidays (for example, the Independence Day of Ukraine, the birthday of Kobzar), representatives of the authorities of the autonomy would lay flowers at the monument.

On 03.02.2014, by the initiative of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement, several dozen people gathered for an event of peaceful resistance to the occupation. Eventually, such rallies were held on a regular basis and the number of their participants was growing despite the threats to safety and lives of the activists .

One of the most massive rallies of resistance to the Russian occupation of Crimea took place on 03/09/2014, on the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko. About a thousand (according to other estimates, up to two thousand) people from all parts of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea took part in it. The protesters were holding flags of Ukraine and the Crimean Tatar people, yellow and blue balloons, and posters with patriotic slogans.

The rally voiced the demand for the dissolution of the Crimean parliament. A statement by the Crimean organization of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine regarding the illegitimacy of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was announced, condemning Russia's aggression and demanding the withdrawal of its troops from Crimea. Representatives of a number of other organizations, specifically the Crimean branch of the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Society, the Automaidan and the Front of Changes public organization made similar statements.

Before the start of the event, two of its organizers - Andriy Shchekun , co-coordinator of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement, and Anatoly Kovalsky, an activist of the same movement, were captured by the Crimean self-defense militants at the railway station. The Ukrainians arrived there to pick up state flags for the rally from the Kyiv train. At the rally, Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate Kliment, reported the abduction of the activists.

Participants of the event chanted patriotic Ukrainian slogans: "Arise, Crimea!", "Together until the end!", "Ukraine is above all!", "Heroes do not die!"

Kliment shared his recollections about the policemen at the event, their aggressive attitude and threats: "Just one more week, and we will hang you all Ukrainians on these lamp posts."

At the end of the rally, coordinator of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement, Serhiy Kovalsky, speaking on behalf of those present, called on the authorities in Kyiv to take measures to protect the Crimeans and Crimea, asking the Ukrainian public to massively support the patriots on the peninsula and the international community to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Someone at the rally called out to block Sevastopolska Street, demanding the release of Andriy Shchekun and Anatoly Kovalsky. This might have resulted in a conflict with the superior forces of the occupiers and their accomplices. To this end, Serhiy Kovalsky announced an ultimatum to the occupation administration: before midday of 03/11/2014 to concede that the abducted leaders of the Euromaidan-Crimea were in their hands and provide them medical assistance. This must have saved the lives of the hostages.

Assault on the rally in Sevastopol

On the same day, 03/09/2014, in Sevastopol a pro-Ukrainian rally initiated by the Maidan-Sevastopol public group also took place near the monument to Taras Shevchenko on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the poet. The local monument was a gift to the city from the All-Ukrainian Shevchenko Charitable Foundation. The bronze sculpture was made by Vasyl and Volodymyr Odrekhivsky, masters from Lviv, and the pedestal styled as a bandura was made by a Sevastopol architect Georgy Grigoryants, 500 thousand UAH were allocated from the local budget for the installation of the monument. It was solemnly opened on 08/24/2003 – the Independence Day of Ukraine. In honor of Taras Shevchenko, the local authorities also renamed the surrounding square. Same as in Simferopol, the public often gathered there on memorable occasions.

On the eve of Shevchenko's jubilee, the council of the Maidan-Sevastopol public group was informed about the intention of the illegitimate city administration to disrupt the pro-Ukrainian rally. Nonetheless, on 03/09/2014 hundreds of patriots joined the event. They were holding flags of Ukraine and chanting anti-war and pro-Ukrainian slogans: "No war!", "Sevastopol stands for peace", "United country", "Crimea is Ukraine", "Glory to the Naval Forces of Ukraine", "Ukraine and Russia want peace and quiet".

Speakers, were mostly Sevastopol public and political figures, as well as Oles Doniy, former Member of Parliament of Ukraine, Oleksandr Chernenko,  Chairman of the Board of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, and Solomiya Vitvytska, hostess from the 1+1 TV channel, emphasized the importance of preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Doniy specifically mentioned the occupation of Sevastopol by Russia and urged people to ignore the so-called "referendum" on the status of Crimea.

The anthem of Ukraine, Ukrainian songs and poetry of Taras Shevchenko were heard. The rally participants unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Ukrainian authorities to respond strongly to separatism and the military occupation of Crimea, and to uphold the constitutional order of Ukraine and the security of its citizens with involvement of international peacekeeping forces.

Groups of people with Russian symbols and pro-Russian slogans, including the so-called "self-defense" militants, particularly the members of the so-called "Russian bloc battalion", as well as cossacks from Krasnodar and Rostov, arrived at the venue of the rally. Fighters wearing the uniforms of Donbas security agencies were for the first time detected there.

Russian militants and their accomplices launched an attack against the protesters. The police intervened at some point and drove the opposing sides apart, but as the law enforcement officers withdrew, the militants attacked the Ukrainian patriots again. Many of them were brutally beaten and shot by militants armed with whips, batons and small arms.

On the same day, militants from the Russian bloc battalion captured four participants of the Revolution of Dignity at a rally in the Shevchenko park. In addition, pro-Russian leaders provoked a car accident damaging the cars of Dmytro Bilotserkovets, a member of the Udar party, and Artem Kiselyov, a councilman for Leninsky District of Sevastopol and a senior lieutenant of the Ukrainian Naval Forces. The latter ended up in hospital with a head injury and internal contusions, and five more activists were dispatched to the accident and emergency unit of City Hospital No. 1.

About 30 people were taken to the district police station. This would save them from the attackers, but law enforcement officers refused to recognize them as victims, although, according to Oleksiy Shubin, they had to call an ambulance to the police station twice. Russian militants and their accomplices prevented journalists from recording the clashes and attacks during and after the rally. Journalists themselves became victims of criminal attacks.


On 03/11/2014, the illegitimate Prime Minister of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov publicly reported that Andriy Schekun and other activists of the Crimean Euromaidan were detained by the so-called "Crimean special forces", ostensibly for destruction of the citizen’s passports, went on talking about some provocative materials allegedly confiscated from the activists. Aksyonov assured that the detainees were alive and well, but as it turned out later, Shchekun and Kovalsky were actually brutally beaten and tortured.  

Abductions and persecution of pro-Ukrainian activists continued for the next few days, and some of them had to eventually flee Crimea. For example, Serhiy Kovalsky, co-coordinator of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement, moved to the mainland on 03/11/2014, and the occupation authorities promised a $ 10,000 reward for his capture. The day before, another co-coordinator of this movement, Serhiy Mokrenyuk, had to flee as well.

However, pro-Ukrainian rallies in the Taras Shevchenko park of Simferopol continued until the day of the so-called "referendum on the status of Crimea". On 03/15/2014, about 200 activists took part in the last rally. They held flags of Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and posters saying "Crimea is Ukraine", "No war" and "Putin, go away". They sang the anthem of Ukraine and called for peace.

The occupation authorities have been trying to neutralize the role of the monument to Kobzar since 2014. To this end, reinforced patrols kept people away from Shevchenko Park in Simferopol on 08/24/2014 – the Ukrainian Independence Day, pleading an anonymous bomb tip. A water cannon was parked not far from the monument. Several Ukrainian activists and a film crew of the Inter TV channel were detained there by the occupation police. Despite all the obstacles, citizens continued coming and bringing flowers to the monument. In 2015, pro-Ukrainian organizations were banned from holding traditional Shevchenko days around the monument. Administrative and judicial actions were taken against some of the organizers and participants of the event that was involuntarily held in another park of the city.

In 2016, some unidentified people put the image of a trident and wrote ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ on the legendary monument in Simferopol. In response, the occupation authorities installed surveillance cameras to monitor the monument. These days, the events can be held there only by the parties controlled by the invaders, whereas independent associations of Ukrainians are prohibited from doing this. From time to time, Russian chauvinists petition to demolish or move the Shevchenko monument in Simferopol.

Mykola Shiptur, an activist from Ivano-Frankivsk, was illegally sentenced in Sevastopol on 04/28/2015, more than a year after he was unlawfully detained by the militants in the Taras Shevchenko park. He was sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison for alleged attempted assassination (after an appeal, the term was reduced to 9 years).

In February 2016, a group of people from the Gagarinsky District of Sevastopol turned to the occupation administration with a request to demolish the monument to the poet in order to "remove an alien element of the Ukrainian heritage", and install "something Russian" instead. The Ukrainian National Cultural Society of Sevastopol protested against this initiative.

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies of the autonomy are conducting a pre-trial investigation in criminal proceedings on the counts of illegal confinement of Andriy Shchekun, Yuri Shevchenko, Anatoly Kovalsky, Maksym Kryvydenko, Oleksiy Grytsenko, Serhiy Suprun, Mykhailo Vdovchenko by representatives of the illegal formation Self-Defense of Crimea constituting criminal offenses under Parts 1, 2 Article 438, Part 2 Article 146 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). In the course of the pre-trial investigation of these events, the involvement of 4 individuals, members of the illegal armed formation Self-Defense of Crimea was established. They were indicted of committing a war crime under Art. 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the laws and customs of war). According to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, violence to life and person is prohibited, in particular ill-treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment of persons protected by the Convention. Charges were also brought under Part 2 Art. 146 (illegal imprisonment or kidnapping) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Published on 2021-09-01

Andriy Ivanets, PhD in History


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