Virtual museum of Russian aggression.

Virtual museum of Russian aggression.



The atmosphere of protest

In late 2013 and early 2014, the social activism was on the rise throughout Ukraine. Concerned citizens from various regions, including Crimea, arrived in the capital to protest the inconsistent policies of the President and the government. Rallies, resistance coordination centers, tent camps in support of the country's European integration were taking place not only Kyiv, but also in other cities and regions, including on the peninsula. Eventually, the protesters expanded the list of their demands – they were outraged by violence, corruption, usurpation of power, violation of the constitutional order and betrayal of national interests. Protests united both non-partisan and politically affiliated folks of every age, national, professional and religious background... The national flag of Ukraine became the most popular symbol of the protesters.

“... at the same time with the Ukrainian community and the paraffians of the Kiev Patriarchate, and by the walls of the Supreme For the sake of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, they were robbed of everything that came to us. The Crimean Tatars shouted: "Allah akbar!" We bully at once at the most difficult hour for us and seized our land as a gateway, so they escaped into our peaceful life. We seized the territorial integrity of our state. "

Archbishop Clement.
People of "Gray Zone". Certificates of the Russian annexation to Crimea 2014. Kiev, 2018.P. 184.

Central and local authorities persecuted activists and mobilized the so-called "anti-Maidan" as a counterbalance to popular democratic resistance [Ed: the anti-Maidan groups, although presented as a "popular movement", mostly consisted of paid pro-Russian thugs and athletes from the east and south of Ukraine]. However, when the death toll in the center of the capital exceeded a hundred, the parliament, even with a pro-presidential majority, condemned the use of violence that has led to the deaths and injuries of the protesters. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted to reinstate the parliamentary-presidential form of governance in Ukraine and called for civil peace. President Yanukovych fled to Russia. While Kyiv was restoring the functions of power institutions and paying tribute to the fallen heroes of the Maidan, Crimean activists were experiencing another wave of persecution.

On 02/25/2014, the Presidium of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People decided to hold a rally the following day. The chairman of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, notified the law enforcement officers about the place and time (from 10:00 to 17:00) of the planned event. At 09:15 on the next day, local authorities got another notification that three thousand participants would rally, ostensibly "to prevent the Verkhovna Rada of the Aautonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) from making decisions aimed at destabilizing the situation in the autonomy".

In Simferopol, activists historically gathered mainly on the square in front of the Crimean government building. However, at the end of February, including the morning of the 26th, they made their way to the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC .

Hybrid adversary

Unlike the central government, local members of parliament never got around to uniting for the sake of political stabilization. On the contrary, at the sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC, tensions would escalate, and calls for self-determination of Crimea could be heard.

The Presidium condemned the public protests. On the days when the Maidan sank into a bloodbath, the head of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, went to Moscow. There he voiced the idea of denouncing the 1954 decision on the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine.

On 02/25/2014, the building of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC was blocked by about 400 pro-Russian activists. They demanded to remove the state symbols of Ukraine and to convene an extraordinary session which should pass a decision to hold a referendum on the independence of Crimea.

Inside the Crimean parliament, a round table was held with the participation of the members of the Russian State Duma. The evening before, they met with Sergey Aksyonov and Sergey Tsekov, members of the Crimean parliament, two out of three representing the Russian Unity party in the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC.

At 15:00, the speaker accepted the demands of the pro-Russian picketers and called the members of parliament to convene for the session scheduled for 02/26/2014. Meanwhile, the Simferopol organization of the Russian Unity party notified the city executive committee about a rally where it intended to gather fifteen thousand people between 13:00 and 20:00 of the same day in front of the building of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC, ostensibly against the destabilization of the situation as well as for the preservation and expansion of the powers of the Republic of Crimea.

In the evening, Sergey Aksyonov having become aware that the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People would also hold a rally, decided to engage the illegal paramilitary group, the People's Militia of Crimea to guard the building of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC.

Representatives of the pro-Russian Cossack organizations were mobilized; among their leaders was Sergei Shuvaynikov, also a member of parliament representing the Russian Unity party. Pro-Russian militant groups, mostly men brought from Sevastopol (about 1,000) and Yevpatoria (about 400), also contributed to the escalation of violence on the day of the confrontation.

"From the very morning of February 26, 2014, I was in the Simferopol polyclinic. Returning home, I drove past Sovetskaya Square. There, a woman literally flew into the minibus and started shouting with an almost crazy expression that Crimean Tatars were gathering near the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea, who, according to her, were building barricades there and preparing a massacre… On the way I came across an unknown guy in his twenties who asked me, what a year. And it caught my attention, because in the place where we met, they don't ask about the time - all the locals know that you just have to look up and see a big clock in the office center. It's as absurd as asking "what time" at the station. I also noticed that this guy speaks a specific Russian language, which is markedly different from the pronunciation of the Crimean people. I told him the time, and then he asked me where the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea is located.

Sergey Gromenko. People of the "gray zone". Witnesses of the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Kyiv, 2018. p. 43-44

Law enforcement agencies were notified about the planned rallies, which is confirmed by the estimates for the personnel and equipment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which were allocated for the event, however, the police remained passive and never used riot control gear during the entire rally. On that day, according to various estimates, up to 20,000 activists gathered on the square in the presence of 551 law enforcement officers.

On the eve of the landmark rally, disturbing news were heard almost from everywhere: Russian troops were moving across the peninsula, journalists were being persecuted, so-called "self-defense" groups were being formed, and hostile checkpoints were set up. The administration buildings were targeted, and the Cossacks were bossing around even in churches... The civil society of Crimea, therefore, assumed the state functions - activists gathered for the sake of preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

General public defending the law

The investigation with the participation of an international expert group was able to establish a detailed timeline of the events that took place that day.

Police personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs from various parts of Crimea were the first to turn up by the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC building on 02/26/2014. Then, members of the pro-Russian "People's Militia" (about 500 people) arrived wearing St. George's ribbons, allegedly tasked with "providing assistance" to the police. Together they mostly guarded the parliament building, only occasionally cordoning off the opposing sides – a measure that was particularly needed that day.

At 10:00, representatives of the Crimean Tatar community and other pro-Ukrainian activists started pulling into the square from Serova Street (according to various estimates, 5,000-10,000 strong). Up to 600 members of the public initiative Euromaidan-Crimea, including their coordinator Andriy Shchekun, joined the crowd. Representatives of the Tavria Simferopol football club fan movement (about 30 people) joined them an hour later.

Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags prevailed there. Chanting went on: "Glory to Ukraine!", "Glory to the Heroes!", "Allah Akbar!", "Down with the gang!", "Ukraine!", "Crimea is Ukraine!", "Mohyliov, out of Crimea!", "Crimea is not Russia!"," Down with the Russian flag!" The protesters appeared to be unprepared in many ways. Their audio gear was poor, they argued with each other from time to time, and not everyone was properly informed of what the assembly was all about.

Sergey Aksyonov, the future head of the occupation administration, was actively in charge of the pro-Russian side. There they chanted: "Russia!", "Crimea is Russia!", "Glory to the heroes of Berkut", "Fascism won't fly!" The crowd waved the flags of Crimea, the Russian Unity party, the St. Andrew's flag and some communist symbols. At times, a large flag of the Russian Federation was unfurled.

The organizers of both sides negotiated from time to time, agreeing on the disposition of the activists, urging the participants to avoid provocations, and encouraging the police to restore order and to keep things secure. Law enforcers

First clashes occurred after 11:00, and the situation got worse with the opening of the extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC. A jostle began along the line of confrontation. Shouts from the crowd: "Folks, stop fighting!", "Stop!", "Open the corridor", "Let the medics pass", "Stop tossing!", "Come to your senses, Crimeans"...

At about 15:00, pro-Ukrainian activists managed to push the pro-Russian ones out of the courtyard of the Crimean parliament. Activists started flowing in, occupying the ground floor of the building. The session was first postponed and eventually canceled due to lack of quorum.


Members of parliament would convene no more on that day, and the organizers of both sides would call out to people to leave the rally and to keep calm. By the evening, only pro-Russian activists and personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs would remain on the square in front of the parliament.

30 people would seek medical assistance. The duty medical officer would report two citizens of Ukraine dead, apparently from the injuries caused in the tussle on the square. Investigation into these circumstances, and more broadly into unlawful violent obstruction of rallies in support of the integrity of Ukraine, would begin promptly.

Former employees of the law enforcement bodies of the ARC who were supposed to ensure the protection of the public order at the parliament building and who failed to properly perform their duties would be investigated. On the same day, the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine would open proceedings on the counts of acts of separatism in Crimea.

At night, the Russian military would seize the buildings of the parliament and government of the ARC. Having established effective control on the territory of the peninsula, Russia would start illegitimate and politically motivated persecution of public activists. The case of February 26, would be one of the first and the most notorious persecutions of pro-Ukrainian participants of the rally. Some of them would receive unlawful prison sentences from 3 to 8 years.

Under the procedural management of the Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea a pre-trial investigation is underway in a number of criminal proceedings on the facts of illegal persecution of the representatives of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and the illegal ban on its activity as constituting criminal offenses under Part 1 Article 438, Part 1 Article 119, Part 2 Article 121, Part 1 Article 122, Article 340, Parts 1, 2 Article 146, Part 2 Article 162 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

During the pre-trial investigation, 29 individuals were indicted for unlawfully persecuting and imprisoning citizens of Ukraine who participated in the rally, of committing offenses under Part 1 Article 438 (violation of the laws and customs of war) and Article 111 (high treason) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

The suspects, inter alia, betrayed their oath of allegiance to the people of Ukraine and defected to serve in the illegitimate law enforcement and judicial authorities set up by the occupying state.

At the same time, several suspects violated the norms of international humanitarian law; while implementing the policy of the occupying state aimed at persecuting the pro-Ukrainian population of the peninsula, they retrospectively applied the legislation of the Russian Federation and sentenced the protesters to imprisonment.


Despite all this, 02.26.2014 would be remembered for the edge of pro-Ukrainian public activists in Crimea and the beginning of peaceful resistance of the Crimeans to the Russian occupation. Two years later, this day would be officially included in the Ukrainian calendar of memorable dates. In 2020, the President of Ukraine would establish the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which will be marked annually on February 26.

"We saw buses bringing people from Sevastopol, not even Crimeans. We saw what their horde was there. Some 2-3 hours of such strong resistance, and we managed to push them away. But they remained still, near the walls of the Verkhovna Rada. In fact, we controlled the first floor, and the deputies failed to vote for what they were trying to do - the majority did not show up. In principle, it was such a small victory and, in my opinion, the signal to Ukraine that there is someone to rely on is resistance. "

Andriy Shchekun. Maidan in the first person. The regional dimension. Part 1. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea - Luhansk region; Ukr. Inst. of Nat. memory. Kyiv: KIS, 2017. p.46.

Published on 2021-09-01

Olga Volyanyuk

Security Environment Research Center «Prometheus»


«Доклад Международной экспертной группы. «Дело 26 февраля». Часть 1. Реконструкция и правовой анализ событий 26 февраля 2014 года у здания Верховной Рады Автономной Республики Крым в г. Симферополь» / Под общей ред.: Р. Мартыновский, Д. Свиридова. Киев, 2017. 98 с. 26 февраля 2014 года в Симферополе – возле здания Верховной Рады АРК – состоится митинг, созываемый Меджлисом крымскотатарского народа. 25.02. 2014. Меджлис крымскотатарского народа. Інформаційна довідка Прокуратури Автономної Республіки Крим та Севастополя Люди «сірої зони». Свідки російської анексії Криму 2014 року / упоряд. та вступ Андрієвська А., Халімон О. Київ : К.І.С., 2018. 264 с. Майдан від першої особи. Регіональний вимір. Вип. 3. : у 2 ч. Ч. 1. АР Крим – Луганська область / уклад.: О. Білобровець, Л. Бондарук, Т. Ковтунович, Т. Привалко [та ін.], відп. ред. Т. Привалко ; Укр. ін-т нац. пам’яті. Київ : К.І.С., 2017. 416 с. Моніторинг Крайової ради українців Криму. Постанова ВРУ «Про засудження застосування насильства, що призвело до загибелі людей». Відомості Верховної Ради (ВВР), 2014, № 10, ст.126 Постанова Верховної Ради України № 3807 від 2 лютого 2016 р. «Про відзначення пам'ятних дат і ювілеїв у 2016 році» Прокурор автономії Ігор Поночовний : «Прокуратура АР Крим закінчила процес повідомлення про підозри окупаційним «слідчим», «прокурорам» та «суддям» у «справі 26 лютого». 26.02.2020. Указ Президента України №58/2020 від 26.02. 2020 «Про День спротиву окупації Автономної Республіки Крим та міста Севастополя».
Show all