Kyiv, September 3, 2015. The new book about Russian annexation of Crimea called Annexation: Crimea Island at the Lviv Book Forum on September 11, announced the author of the book, Ukrainian political scientist Taras Berezovets at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center co-organized in partnership with Free Crime project. “It is going to be the first non-fiction book about the Crimea annexation from February 18 until March 18, 2014. The book is a result of documentary work, as processed 704 primary sources,” said Berezovets.
Many experts worked over the book, including Free Crimea experts Kateryna Pokrovska, Marichka Dupak, Anna Makota and Roman Ostapchuk as well as journalists such as Viktoria Chyrva. Forty exclusive interviews were conducted in the course of work. The interviewees were mainly the people who lived through the events and agreed to share their memories on how the peninsula’s annexation took place: Ukrainian and Russian politicians, foreign experts and military men. Among the interviewed are also joutnelists Sevgil Musayeva-Borovyk, editor-in-chief of “Ukrainska Pravda”, Dmytro Tymchuk, MP of the People’s Front faction, Heorhiy Logvynsky, MP of the People’s Front faction and Oleksandr Yankovsky, Head of TV and radio programs at the Radio Liberty’s Krym.Realii [Crimea.Reality] project.
The book contains a number of materials, which was not previously published, and covers the preconditions of the annexation –facts and tendencies starting from 1991 including intelligence data. Many experts have written their reviews of the book including Akhtem Seitablayev, a renowned Crimean actor, Oleksandra Ryazantseva who lived through abduction and torture during these events, Oleksiy Yankovsky of the Radio Liberty and Oleh Medvedev, Advisor to the President of Ukraine. “For me it is a book of personal memories,” shared Taras Berezovets,“It was difficult to remain emotionless as Crimea is my motherland, many people who are dear to me still live there including my childhood friends.”
“The main conclusion I made from all those events is that Russian occupants came to the place where is no Ukrainian citizens. Unfortunately, these events showed there was no critical mass of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea,” noted Yankovsky. “There was a massive resistance, a huge rally organized by Mejlis and other pro-Ukrainian forces on February 26, one day before the Crimean Parliament was seized. But on February 27, a certain anabiosis that happened.” His most vivid impression was the morning of March 1. “I did not believe at first that it was possible that Russian troops had seized the premises of the Parliament and of the Council of Ministers. I had some doubts; I thought Aksionov is playing some game and thus tries to gain more power. Everything fell into place in Simferopol when Russian army combat vehicles started moving along the city in the morning around 6 a.m.,” Yankovsky recalled.
Sevgil Musayeva-Borovyk was covering developments on the peninsula since the first days. “I got scared when events by the Parliament started. I remember how we were calling one another with Tamila Tasheva and Rustem Maalimov. Nobody understood what was going on,” she said. “I do not want to talk about those who became traitors, in general it is a story of help and mutual assistance.” Sevgil confessed that it was still not easy to remember those events. “The loss of Crimea can be compared to the loss of a dear person when you go through several stages realizing the loss. I would like to read a book and reconstruct this picture once again, because right now everything is too muddled,” she said.
During the Russian-Georgian War in 2008, Dmytro Tymchuk with his colleagues analyzed whether a similar scenario is likely in Ukraine. According to Tymchuk, there were grounds for serious concern already. “When we worked on Crimea events, we were impressed with the scale of work by Russia’s security service. The unit of FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service produced tremendous destabilization and subversive work,” he said. In December 2009, Ukraine asked to withdraw this unit from its territory but it was restored once Viktor Yanukovych was elected. Tymchuk said that the FSB unit expanded its activities to coordinating activities of Russia-backed organizations across Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions. Tymchuk mentioned Kharkiv-based Oplot militant group as one of such organizations. “Under Yanukovych, activities of Russia’s special services were not controlled at all,” he said. Thus the Russian intelligence wiretapped the Staff of Ukrainian Maritime Forces in Sevastopol and listened to the conversations of Ukraine’s naval command.
Tymchuk and his associates created a semi-secret network of agents that allowed controlling activities of Russian special services on the peninsula and follow the illegal movement of the Russian Black Sea fleet. Tymchuk argued that it was clear from the very beginning the annexation of Crimea was a well-prepared operation. He concluded that the main reason why Russian troops seized the peninsula without firing a shot was not due to the lack of clear orders from Kyiv, but because of the unwillingness of military units to resist. Some openly demonstrated their sympathies for the Russian Federation, while others were afraid to take up responsibility. “If we recall what was happening in the country and society, it was something very similar to anarchy if not anarchy itself,” noted Tymchuk. Top law enforcement officers fled with Yanukovych, the rest were lost after the earlier events in Kyiv. “It is still a mystery to me why our special services and law enforcers did not provide an official version of what was happening in Crimea,” confessed Tymchuk. He emphasized that it is strategically important to study the operation of the Crimean annexation in detail in order to prevent a similar scenario regarding any other territory in the future.
Heorhiy Lohvynsky, MP of the People’s Front faction, who was Advisor to Mustafa Dzhemilev during the annexation. As a lawyer, he started an active campaign to defend the rights of the people in Crimea and sue Russia for annexing peninsula. “On the one hand, the takeover of Crimea is unique, but on the other there is a lot of typical things. If we had analyzed deeper what was happening, the annexation would have probably not happened. The book that is out today is a sort of a Bible that we can use today to make conclusions and realize how we should have resisted,” he noted. “I am convinced that the Crimea story is not over, it may develop both from the standpoint of continued annexation and from the the one of regaining control. The return of Crimea depends on how we are able to defend our territory today, make the right steps and develop a proper strategy,” said Lohvynsky.