All historical events are, first of all, related to people who are directly involved in them. So, we want to present the timeline of events in Crimea through the portraits of heroes and anti-heroes of the Crimean crisis.
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Tamila Tasheva is a co-founder and coordinator of the “Crimea SOS” voluntary organization. Tamila is a Crimean Tatar, her family came back to Crimea in early 90s. She moved to Kyiv in 2007 where she continued to promote the interests of Crimean Tatars: as an officer of the Parliamentary Committee for education and science and a producer for Crimean Tatar musicians in Kyiv.
Since February 27, 2014 she is a co-founder and coordinator of “Crimea SOS” foundation, which became an executive partner of the UN refugee agency. This NGO provides relief for internally displaced persons from Crimea and the Eastern regions of Ukraine, affected by warfare. During the last year “Crimea SOS” rendered almost 50 thousand consultations, took in and distributed humanitarian aid for more than 1,4 million UAH, supported the internally displaced persons in getting 85 grants for initiation of private businesses and housing improvements, organized training courses to raise job chances of internally displaced persons and implemented a lot of other projects.
Tamila Tasheva and “Crimea SOS” represent a huge wave of charity activities which spread across Ukraine after the Crimean Crisis. According to the latest surveys, despite economic crisis and lower incomes, almost 80% of Ukrainians were involved into charity projects.
Crimea SOS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KRYM.SOS
Yuri Smelyanskiy is an eminent Crimean economist, who used to be the Deputy Director of the Institute of economics and management at the Crimean Humanitarian University. During the Revolution of dignity and Crimean Crisis he supported Ukraine. After the annexation of Crimea he left for Kyiv, where he joined the new NGO “Maidan of Foreign Affairs”.
Yuri Smelyanskiy, together with another Crimean economist in exile Andrii Klimenko and other experts of the “Maidan of Foreign Affairs” are currently working on the strategies of Ukrainian policy towards the occupied Crimea. In December 2014 they presented their “Crimea Regain Strategy” which was the first extended analysis of the Ukrainian policy towards Crimea.
On one hand, Yuri Smelyanskiy represents a large group of Crimean scientists and high-level experts who were forced to leave Crimea because of their political beliefs. On the other hand, his story is an example for a new generation of Ukrainian experts and NGOs, who explore the problem of the Crimean Crisis and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. These researches will be helpful for the Government of Ukraine to improve its policy towards the occupied Crimea and to develop and implement the plan for regaining the peninsula.
Oleksandr Usyk is Ukrainian world famous boxer from Simferopol/Crimea who won the 2008 European Amateur Boxing Championships at light-heavyweight, the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships at heavyweight and the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics in the heavyweight division. Usyk was born and lives in Simferopol where he bears “a citizen of honour” title.
Roughly one month after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation Usyk declared (on 28 April 2014) he would never exchange his Ukrainian citizenship for a Russian one and that he considered Crimea a part of Ukraine. Oleksandr Usyk and his family still live in Simferopol. Oleksandr Usyk refused to accept Russian citizenship. He fights under the colours of Ukrainian flag.
Annexation of Crimea made it impossible for most professional sportsmen to participate in global championships as Russians. International sports associations do not admit Crimean sports clubs under Russian flag to competitions. In August 2014 UEFA officially refused to recognize the results of any matches played by clubs from Crimea in competitions organized by the Russian Football Union.
Oleksandr Usyk on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alexanderusyk
Colonel Yuliy Mamchur
Colonel Yuliy Mamchur became a symbol of stoutness and fidelity to duty of Ukrainian armed forces during the Crimean crisis. Since March 4, 2014 he has refused to abandon his post in Belbek, Crimea amidst the Crimean crisis while surrounded and outnumbered by pro-Russian forces. Under Col. Mamchur the Belbek base came to be known as a bastion of resistance. Crimean separatists then cut the brakes in the family car, death threats he has received and in Sevastopol posters had been put up demanding his execution for treachery.
On March 23, Mamchur’s base Belbek was overrun by Russian regular troops, being the last Ukrainian base to fall. Mamchur was verbally abused by Russian armed forces, pro-Russian militia and cossacks, but he refused to be provoked, and ordered his men to resist non-violently and sing the Ukrainian national anthem. Immediately he was then arrested. He was released three days later.
Since March, 29 2014 Col. Mamchur and his unit were stationed in Mykolaiv (their wives and children were also re-located in Mykolaiv). On August 21, 2014 Col. Mamchur was awarded by a 3rd grade Bohdan Khmelnytsky orden. In October 2014 Col. Mamchur was elected to the Ukrainian parliament after being in the top 10 of the electoral list of Petro Poroshenko Bloc.
Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian filmmaker, best known for his 2011 film “Gamer.” Sentsov was born in 1976 in Simferopol, Ukraine, and took courses in film directing and screenwriting in Moscow. His first two short movies were “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” (2008) and “The Horn of a Bull” (2009). “Gamer” debuted at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2012. Its success in this and other festivals helped secure him funding for a forthcoming feature “Rhino,” the production of which was postponed by his work with the Euromaidan movement.
After the November 2013 breakout of the Euromaidan protests, Sentsov became an activist of AutoMaidan and during the following 2014 Crimean crisis helped deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian servicemen blockaded at their Crimean bases. Sentsov has stated that he does not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea and the “Russian Federation’s military seizure of Crimea.” Sentsov and several other activists were arrested in May 2014 in Crimea on suspicion of “plotting terrorist acts.” After holding them without charges for three weeks, the four Ukrainians were accused of being “part of a terrorist community,” meaning membership in Ukraine’s nationalist paramilitary group, Right Sector – a claim that both Sentsov and Right Sector deny.
Since 19 May 2014, Sentsov is being detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. He has never accepted Russian citizenship, but is considered to be a Russian citizen, under the new Russian laws. His case is an example not only of repressions, but of the impossibility remain Ukrainian in Crimea in practice. Sentsov described it as a regress to the law of serfdom. Together with a part of Ukrainian territory Russia illegally captured two million Ukrainians in Crimea. Many Russian and European directors like Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodóvar have appealed to Vladimir Putin calling for Sentsov’s release, without any success. Ukrainian authorities are being prevented by their Russian counterparts to contact or help Sentsov and other activists. The EU and United States have condemned their detention and have called for their release.
See Oleg Sentsov on IMDB
Ethnic Crimean Tatar Reshat Amedov was the first civilian victim of the Crimean crisis. On 3 March 2014 Reshat took part at the peaceful protest against the occupation of Crimea by Russian troops. During his protest in front of the Crimean Council of Ministers building on Simferopol’s Lenin Square, he was abducted by three unidentified men in military uniform from the so-called “Crimean self-defense detachments” who led him to an unknown destination.
On 15 March 2014 Reshat’s body has been found by police in a forest near the village Zemlyanychne about 60 kilometers to the east of Simferopol. The body was bearing clear marks of violence and torture, with his head bound with tape and his legs shackled. A pair of handcuffs was found near his body. Reshat’s murder remains unsolved.
Reshat was buried on 18 March 2014 in the Abdali Muslim Cemetery of Simferopol. He left his young wife Zarina and three orphaned children alone.
Reshat Ametov’s death was the first one of numerous murders, arrests and repressions against pro-Ukrainian activists in occupied Crimea. Russian police never solved these cases. Repressions against Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists are still going on, which recently was a topic for a discussion at the 28th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Mustafa Dzhemilev is former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and a member of the Ukrainian Parliament since 1998. He is a recognized leader of the Crimean Tatar National Movement and a former Soviet dissident.
At 18, Dzhemilev and several of his activist friends established the Union of Young Crimean Tatars, beginning the long struggle for the recognition of the rights of Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland. Dzhemilev was arrested 6 times for anti-Soviet activities and served time in Soviet prisons and labor camps. He is remembered for going on the longest hunger strike in the history of human rights movements: 303 days. In May 1989, he was elected to head the newly founded Crimean Tatar National Movement. The same year he returned to Crimea with his family, a move that would be followed by the eventual return of 250,000 Tatars to their homeland.
After the Euromaidan revolution Mustafa Dzhemilev was an active supporter of the new Ukrainian government, leading numerous peaceful pro-Ukrainian actions in Crimea. He denounced Russia’s Crimean “referendum” as illegal and claimed that the results were manipulated by Russia. In April 2014, at the border between mainland Ukraine and Crimea, Dzhemilev was handed an unsigned typewritten document stating that he is banned by federal law from entering Russian territory for five years. On May 3 Mustafa tried to cross the “border” between the Kherson Oblast and the breakaway Republic of Crimea, but he was unable to do so: Russian occupation forces blocked the road with tanks.
Mustafa Dzhemilev now lives in Kyiv. He is a Member of Ukrainian Parliament and a Representative of the President of Ukraine for the Crimean Tatars. The figure of Mustafa Dzhemilev demonstrates the tragic fate of Crimean Tatars who, just 25 years after returning to their motherland, now often are forced to leave the peninsula. As for today there are more than 20000 forced migrants from Crimea to continental Ukraine. Many of them are Crimean Tatars. In May 2014 Russian occupation authorities banned any mourning events in Crimea on the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars from the peninsula by Stalin. In January 2015 Crimean occupation authorities erected a Stalin monument in Yalta.
Nataliya Poklonskaya is the “Prosecutor General” of the self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea. She was born and grew up in Ukraine, got Ukrainian secondary and higher education, made a brilliant career at the Ukrainian public prosecution service, took an oath to the people of Ukraine, and even publicly wore Ukrainian national costumes, as shown on the picture.
Nothing of that prevented her from selling out her country for the higher position of the “Prosecutor General”. Poklonskaya created a great picture for the Russian occupation authorities, which should show the involvement of Crimeans into the governance of the peninsula. The reality is far different from that. All key positions are held by newcomers who have just recently arrived from Russia. For example, only one of four “Deputy General Prosecutors” at Poklonskaya’s office is from Crimea.
Poklonskaya represents a wide group of former Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea who violated their oath and went into the service of Russian occupation authorities. Later Russian media wrote about an interesting fact: these servicemen got a record in their personal files “inclined to treason”. Hard to disagree…
Sergey Aksyonov is a self-proclaimed “prime-minister” of a self-proclaimed “republic” of Crimea. Aksyonov used to be a leader of a Crimean regional political movement “Russian Unity” which achieved 4% of votes (warranting 3 seats of total 100 in Crimean parliament) during 2010 elections. Today he is a leading member of Putin’s “United Russia.”
There is proof that in the mid 1990s Aksyonov was a member of the Crimean organized criminal gang Salem with the nickname Goblin and was involved in numerous cases of racket, arms and drugs trafficking, contract murders etc. Later some members of Salem had taken offices as local deputies and got legislative immunity. Following the Euromaidan revolution, on February 27 an emergency session was held in the Crimean parliament while it was occupied by so-called “self-defense forces” (Russian troops). After sealing the doors and confiscating all mobile phones, the MPs who had been invited by Aksyonov to enter the building , elected Aksyonov as “Prime Minister” by 55 votes of 64. Various media accounts have disputed whether he was able to gather a quorum of 50 of his peers before the session convened that day. Some Crimean MPs who were registered as present have said they did not come near the building. Others denied being even in the city, claiming that duplicate voting cards stolen from parliament safe were used in their name. Opposition deputies have avoided speaking out publicly out of fear of reprisal, and due to threats received. Crimean legal Prime Minister Anatolii Mohyliov was barred from attending the session.
Aksyonov enjoys Canadian, EU and US-sanctions. Aksyonov repeatedly publicly expressed homophobic speeches, saying homosexuals “have no chance” in Crimea or “we in Crimea do not need such people.” Sergey Aksyonov exemplifies the criminal and unmoral character of today’s regime in Crimea, as he is just the tip of the criminal iceberg of the new self-proclaimed “government” of the self-proclaimed “republic” of Crimea. The methods of these new people of power in Crimea are the same as in the mid 1990s: corruption, racket, persecution of opponents, freedom of speech abuse etc. is the new reality of the peninsula.
Refat Chubarov is the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Ukrainian politician and public figure. He has never accepted Russian occupation of Crimea, calling the Crimea “referendum” a circus and a tragedy, illegitimate government with armed forces from another country.
Refat Chubarov has played a historic role in the Crimean crisis. On February 26, 2014 during the massive pro-Ukrainian demonstration in Simferopol he managed to avoid violence by calming down Crimean Tatars. Mainly due to his efforts, Crimean crisis went on without many casualties. Russian occupation authorities are proud of that but in reality it was not their achievement at all.
Nevertheless, it didn’t prevent Russian occupation authorities to ban Refat Chubarov from entering Crimea in July 2014. In September 2014, Mejlis was forced to leave its office in Simferopol which had been the headquarters of the Organization for the last 15 years. Today, Refat Chubarov is living and working in Kyiv.
Liza Bogutskaya is a freelance designer and blogger from Simferopol who became famous for her active pro-Ukrainian position during and after the Crimean crisis. She was publicly wearing Ukrainian national costumes, decorated her car with Ukrainian symbols and wrote in her blog about the absurdity of the decisions of the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea.
On September 8, 2014 Russian Federal Security Service arranged a house-check and interrogation of Liza Bogutskaya which lasted 6 hours. Shortly after that Liza decided to leave Crimea. Today she is living and working in Kyiv. She is going to come back to Simferopol after Crimea becomes Ukrainian again.
The story of Liza Bogutskaya is common for many pro-Ukrainian activists on the peninsula. Just recently
young Ukrainian activists were arrested for laying flowers in front of the Taras Shevchenko monument.
But these are not only pro-Ukrainian activists who are leaving Crimea. Businessmen, students, IT- and finance specialists, artists are moving to the continental Ukraine from the total lawlessness of the regime of Russian occupation authorities.
Alexander Kolchenko is a Crimean public left-wing activist who was arrested together with Oleg Sentsov on May 16, 2014 on suspicion of “plotting terrorist acts” and being a member of “Right sector” (Ukrainian right radicals). Kolchenko is also detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. He is also under arrest as a Russian citizen although he never applied for Russian citizenship and has always been Ukrainian. On January 29, 2015 a Crimean court officially refused to accept Kolchenko’s Ukrainian citizenship.
The case of Alexander Kolchenko is not only an example of hard repressions and the new law of serfdom in Crimea. It demonstrates Russian occupation authorities’ paranoic fear of the “Right sector” movement, which never was active in Crimea. Due to the lack of real “Right sector” activists Russian occupation authorities arrest such people as film director Sentsov or even anti-fascist Kolchenko accusing them of being right-wing radicals in order to intimidate local Crimeans and at the same time neuthralize peaceful pro-Ukrainian activists. In February 2015 Russian occupation authorities reported that a “Right sector” arms cache was found in Crimea. Now further repressions and arrests of innocent people as anti-fascist Kolchenko or film director Sentsov should be expected.
Jamala (the real name Susana Jamaladinova) is a world famous Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar jazz-singer (spinto soprano). Like most of Crimean Tatar people, Jamala was born in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan) where her ancestors have been forcefully resettled to. Upon independence of Ukraine, the family returned to Crimea.
During the Crimean crisis Jamala clearly declined to accept the annexation of Crimea by Russia. She participated in numerous fundraising projects for internally displaced persons from Crimea and Donbas. Almost all Crimean stars, such as Jamala, Zlata Ognevich, Maria Yefrosinina, condemned the occupation of Crimea by Russia. Now they have to live and work in Kyiv.
The peninsula used to host world famous music festivals “KaZantip” and “Koktebel Jazz festival” as well as many other global cultural events. Today Crimeans can only enjoy the performances of Russian military orchestras. All international festivals moved to other regions. Obviously, these were not only political reasons which made music stars to leave Crimea and to condemn its Russian occupation.