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Полнометражная документальная лента была задумана, чтобы сохранить для истории каждый значимый эпизод событий, происходивших в Крыму весной 2014 года. Съемки продолжались 8 месяцев и охватили Севастополь и Форос, Симферополь и Керчь, Ялту и Бахчисарай; Феодосию, Джанкой, Алушту и еще десяток населенных пунктов Крыма. По горячим следам был записан большой разговор с Владимиром Путиным, а потом еще больше полусотни интервью с участниками и свидетелями Крымской весны. С чего все началось? Как Россия получила официальное обращение от легитимного президента Украины с просьбой спасти ему жизнь?
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Крым. Путь на Родину. Документальный фильм Андрея Кондрашова
Что Вы думаете по поводу этой новости?
A film about the events of 2014. Reenactments feature actual participants..
I invited senior members of our special services and the Defense Ministry to the Kremlin and gave them a task..
It would be no exaggeration to say that I literally asked them to save the Ukrainian president’s life..
In the early hours of February 23, 2014, a unique operation took place, something that had never been done before:.
An incumbent president was smuggled out of his country, amid a raging conflict there, on orders from the Russian head of state..
Our radio intelligence services in fact began tracking his motorcade..
It became clear that Viktor Yanukovych would soon ride into an ambush and be killed..
Ukraine’s legitimate leader directly asked Russia to save his life..
The details of the operation that followed remained classified for a year, and were known only to Vladimir Putin and those who carried out his orders. Do I have it right that you actually spent a whole night overseeing the operation to save Yanukovych’s life?.
Yes, that’s right. The operation began late on February 22 and ended around 7:00 a.m. the next day..
And I will not deny that as we were leaving, I told the four colleagues who were with me,.
“The latest developments in Ukraine force us to begin working on returning Crimea to Russia,.
Because we cannot abandon the land and people there. We cannot let them be steamrollered by nationalists.”.
I gave them some instructions about what needed to be done and how, emphasizing, however,.
That we would only do so if we were absolutely confident that it was what the people there wanted us to do..
We had to give Crimean residents a chance to decide for themselves and have a voice in the matter – that was our goal, anyway..
I am being entirely honest with you, and totally frank. I thought to myself then: whatever the people say they want, let it be so. If they want to have more autonomy or more rights as part of Ukraine, fine..
But if they want the other option, we cannot let them down..
Crimea: The Way Home.
Kiev, February 2014.
The confrontation in Kiev began escalating on February 18. The first targeted shot was fired at 1:30 p.m. Five service members of the interior troops were killed in the same manner, shot in the neck. Right Sector nationalists attacked the Party of Regions' office, burning a man alive there..
The next day, the death toll rose to 25 in Kiev. On February 20, snipers opened fire on the Maidan, on both sides, killing 75 to 100 people, according to various estimates..
Everything changed overnight. There was bloodshed and shooting on the Maidan. What was Yanukovych doing then? He must have called you. Did he ask for a meeting?.
Yes. First, he called me late on the 21st to say that he was going to Kharkov for a regional conference..
I did not think it was a good idea for him to leave the capital in that situation, so I told him as much,.
And he said, “I’ll think about it. I don’t know. I’ll call you back. We’ll talk later.”.
That night, as both protesters and law enforcement officers were massacred on the Maidan, Yanukovych spent his last night at home..
He called me back, and he said he still wanted to go. The only thing I warned him about was not to send additional police forces. He said, “I understand that.” He left and pulled out all law enforcement forces..
On February 21 at 9:17 a.m., Viktor Yanukovych left his Mezhgorye residence, stopping for a few seconds as if to say goodbye..
He knew he was not coming back, although at that time he still expected peaceful decisions.
From the Maidan protesters and European intermediaries in response to his consent to meet the opposition’s demands..
As you know, the opposite happened – the opposition forces seized the presidential administration and government on that same day..
On the 22nd, he called me again to tell me he was in Kharkov and wanted to meet and discuss the situation with me..
I was certainly willing to talk and asked, “Where would you like to meet?”.
On that day, the Maidan leaders appointed Alexander Turchinov to head the Verkhovna Rada,.
In violation of the country’s constitution, thus de facto ousting Yanukovych. The Ukrainian president spoke on the radio from Kharkov..
Viktor Yanukovych: I am not resigning. I was legally elected president. What is happening is flagrant vandalism and banditry and a coup d’etat..
Once Yanukovych left Kiev, statements started coming from Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski, the European Commission’s Olivier Bailly.
And Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite that the EU Association Agreement would be signed with Ukraine’s new government..
The legitimate president was most certainly getting in the way of those behind the coup in Kiev..
It became clear to us then, and there were also reports that his opponents who toppled him.
Were not just planning to take him hostage, but physically liquidate him..
As one well-known leader said, “When there's no person, there's no problem.” The events that followed confirmed that plan. Without him, it would have been much easier for the opposition forces to attain their goals..
On February 22, Yanukovych left Kharkov and called President Putin again from Donetsk..
So I offered, “Let’s just meet somewhere in Rostov, so that you won’t have to fly far. I could join you there instead.”.
Then I received another call, and his security service told me that they had a problem with take-off..
By that time, I was actually aware that something out of the ordinary was going on, something beyond a normal situation..
Later we found out that his convoy had already come under fire..
Incidentally, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka’s motorcade was attacked too. One of his security guards was injured..
By that point, Yanukovych had already been removed from power, so the opposition forces launched an operation to capture or kill him..
The leaders of Russia’s four security services received the President’s orders to save the Ukrainian president’s life..
Other groups, following orders from the Maidan leaders, were also searching for him but with a different purpose..
They couldn’t find him because after the failed attempt to take off from Donetsk, Yanukovych disappeared. His motorcade vanished somewhere in eastern Ukraine..
He must have somehow broken through and driven away from Donetsk without really knowing where he was heading….
He went to Crimea. He was headed for Crimea, but when they showed me his route plotted on a map….
You saw a map? When he called, our radio intelligence service began tracking his motorcade, and we recorded his locations..
But when they showed me the map, it became clear that he would soon run into an ambush..
According to our information, heavy-caliber machine guns were deployed, so there wasn’t going to be any discussion..
Does this mean that they didn’t even intend to stop the motorcade? We have reasons to believe that he simply would have been annihilated. His security staff had been informed that they could not continue on. The thinking here was quite strange, since it was all planned out using unsecured communication channels, which we used to figure out where he was..
But before we tracked him down using technical means,.
We didn’t know where he was, so we prepared to rescue him directly from Donetsk by land, sea or air..
So you ordered various units to be ready to save Yanukovych? Yes, because he was already far from Donetsk, so it would have taken motor boats five or six hours to reach the coast, which is quite a long time..
Did you tell them to retreat to the coast and warn them that their lives would have been in danger had they continued?.
Yes, they turned around. We provided them the bearings and information on the location the motorcade needed to reach..
We also sent out a helicopter group with special forces onboard..
The search operation lasted for about ninety minutes, but dozens of kilometers of the coastline were scanned with no results..
The pilots were not in contact with Yanukovych’s motorcade, and his adjutant was calling the Kremlin in despair..
At a certain point it became clear that they were unable to find the motorcade,.
And the helicopter was running out of fuel, so they would have to return..
The helicopters were about to turn back when the pilots suddenly saw flashing lights in the distances –.
Vehicles from the motorcade simultaneously turned on their high-beams to signal their location..
How did they know to do that? We told them to. Do you mean that you and your colleagues warned them? Yes. The pilots saw them and picked them up..
Take the second square, 7:45....
Permission 60:45. Take preliminary 7-44. Cleared for landing..
But the story does not end there, because Yanukovych did not want to move to Russia and asked to go to Crimea right away..
And to Crimea he went. So for another several days, as the coup unfolded, he was on Ukrainian territory..
However, after several days, when it became clear that there was no one to talk to in Kiev, he asked us to bring him to Russia..
What did you feel when you heard that the rescue operation was a success?.
What did I feel? I felt like we saved his life and the lives of his family members..
I think it was a good thing to do, a noble thing. I don’t want to judge his actions. He said, I just couldn’t sign the order to use force, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t know whether he should be blamed for this. I don’t think that I have the right to. Good or bad, his inaction obviously had grave consequences..
Thousands of the most vulnerable people in Ukraine were already feeling the consequences. Having taken Kiev, the nationalists went after anyone who disagreed with how they took power..
Roman Yakovlev (bus convoy head, Simferopol resident): It was the 20th. We were returning home..
Alexander Belyi (auto mechanic, Simferopol resident): The road was blocked. I don’t know what to call them. They were monsters..
City of Korsun-Shevchenkovsky, Cherkassy Region, Ukraine, February 20, 2014 On the day when snipers assumed full control of the Maidan, ordinary people were bused back to Crimea from Kiev.
Where they had attended the so-called anti-Maidan protests, peaceful rallies, during which unarmed Crimeans attempted to show their opposition to the Euromaidan movement..
Patrol cars of the Ukrainian police force joined the bus convoy half way to escort them,.
And eventually led the Crimeans into an ambush. Alexander Bochkaryov (deputy regiment commander of the Crimean self-defense forces): The bus convoy was blocked at both ends. That’s when bad things started to happen. Men armed with clubs appeared, some of them were drunk, others were on drugs....
Roman Yakovlev (bus convoy head, Simferopol resident): A guy with a gun came out and started shooting people point blank..
Alexei Grebnev (bus passenger, Simferopol resident): Our driver was shot in his seat..
Reenactment. Roman Yakovlev (bus convoy head, Simferopol resident): Then this hoard of barbarians approached the buses and started breaking windows..
Alexander Belyi (auto mechanic, Simferopol resident): They threw stones at us. Then they began screaming stuff like, “Come out or we’ll burn you alive.”.
The passengers didn’t think they would make it out alive, especially if they were found with a Russian flag.
Or signs with slogans like “We won’t give our Crimea to Bandera” or even just photos on their smartphones of the events that took place on the Maidan. Mikhail Gupalo (bus passenger, Simferopol resident): I removed the memory card from my phone and camera and placed them under my tongue..
I was prepared to swallow the photos of my family.
And of what these monsters did on the Maidan, so that they don’t get into their hands..
Alexei Grebnev (bus passenger, Simferopol resident): When we ran out of the bus, we saw there was a ditch on the side of the road..
They threw us into it. First they beat us, and then threw us into the ditch..
The men who were shot lay there. Six people were lying there, and our bus driver lay nearby..
Alexander Belyi (auto mechanic, Simferopol resident): They forced us to sing the Ukrainian national anthem and to shout “Glory to Ukraine,” while beating us with clubs. I got seven stitches on my head..
Mikhail Gupalo (bus passenger, Simferopol resident): We were sitting all together, while they took the Crimeans out one by one, forcing some of them to take broken glass from the bus and put it down their shirts, or into their pockets, or even eat it..
They forced people to eat glass? Yes. People ate it, because they wanted to live..
Reenactment. Alexander Belyi (auto mechanic, Simferopol resident): There was a guy who tried to escape into the fields. I watched them shoot at him. He fell to the ground, and I don’t know if he is alive or not. I don’t know..
The crowd cheered as the buses burned. And while Maidan supporters were busy admiring the spectacle they had created, the surviving Crimeans were able to escape, fleeing in all directions..
But not everyone made it. The nationalists began a manhunt in the fields and woods..
Alexandr Bochkaryov (deputy regiment commander of the Crimean self-defense forces): Everyone saw special cars looking for people who ran away from the buses..
We hid from these fascists and criminals in fields and the woods..
Believe me, they were burning with hatred even though we hadn’t done anything to them....
Those who got caught were beaten to within an inch of their lives, but first they were told that if they survive, their lives would never be the same..
Alexander Beliy (auto mechanic, Simferopol resident): They threatened me and held a gun to my head..
Roman Yakovlev (bus convoy head, Simferopol resident): They were angry at us, because we are from Crimea, “Speak Ukrainian.”.
I said, "I don’t speak Ukrainian." He said, “I’ll go to Crimea and kill your whole family for speaking Russian.".
Alexander Bochkaryov (deputy regiment commander of the Crimean self-defense forces): They were beating us. They saw our blood, they knew we were in pain and just stood there laughing – they enjoyed it..
What more is there to say? This tragedy made us realize that we couldn’t stay in Ukraine..
They are fascists, total fascists and Banderites. Korsun-Shevchenkovsky, Cherkassy Region, Ukraine, February 20, 2014 According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, the Korsun massacre - as this tragedy immediately came to be known in Crimea - claimed the lives of seven people..
Of the eight Crimean buses, the nationalists burned four in the Cherkassy Region..
More than 20 people went missing. When we saw the outburst of extreme nationalism, we realized that the people residing in Crimea might face hard times..
It was then – and I want to emphasize this – it was then that we realized that we could not abandon these people just like that and leave them to their own devices..
Simferopol, which Kiev declared the seat of the enemies of Maidan, was given an ultimatum –.
Demolish the monument to Lenin within the next 10 days. Even before the Korsun massacre, this ultimatum had spurred locals to take to the streets..
While some other Ukrainian regions demonstrated their loyalty to nationalists, the Crimeans were busy forming self-defense units..
Sergei Aksyonov (head of the Republic of Crimea, leader of the all-Ukrainian party Russian Unity, 2008-2014): We held training sessions every day.
And were prepared to stop anyone who tried to tear down the monument. For us, it really was a symbol of stability and the ability of the authorities to keep the situation under control..
When you started your personal Crimean Spring, you had no way of knowing that Russia would support Crimea. Were you scared?.
You know, our sense of pride probably helped us overcome this fear..
"Together, we will build our Crimea! Peace to Crimea! Together, we will build our Crimea!".
Where did Aksyonov come from? I’m not sure. I never heard of him before..
Frankly, they just told me his name and said that the MPs of the Crimean parliament want him to represent them..
The self-defense forces insisted on having a leader from their ranks - Aksyonov..
They had some sway with the deputies back then, it's true. That may well be the case, I’m not really sure. That’s up to them, they are the ones who live in Crimea. Of course, they know better. He was the one who formed the companies and so on. When I asked the chairman of the Crimean parliament about him, he told me, "Well, he’s like Che Guevara. That’s the kind of person we need now.".
Sergei Aksyonov: We want a peaceful, stable and multi-ethnic Crimea, where people can lead normal lives..
The Crimean Spring was probably successful because of the unity of the people and ideas, patriotism – you know, a single way of thinking, a unified approach..
February 22 unified the Crimeans. On that day, Berkut officers returned to Sevastopol and Simferopol..
They were attacked with fire and guns during the Maidan protests, and then were accused of sniper attacks..
Battered and bruised, they returned home to a sight they couldn’t have imagined in Kiev..
At this time, criminal cases were being opened against Berkut officers and commanders throughout Ukraine..
In Lviv, they forced them on their knees. In the town of Rovno, all of Berkut officers were placed under the control of the Right Sector. Kiev proposed forming a special unit on the basis of the Berkut named after the heroes of Euromaidan..
Everywhere else, they were enemies. Only in Crimea were they treated like heroes..
Yury Abisov (commander of the Crimean Berkut battalion, commander of the Special Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Crimea since August 2014): It was like salve, a refreshing drink of water or a breath of fresh air..
We knew we were finally home - this is our Crimea, and we will not give it to anyone. Do you understand? In other words, that was it? Yes. The decision was made here, on Lenin Square, by the Crimeans..
On the same day, dozens of wounded people were taken to the hospitals, and a Berkut officer and two service members of the interior troops who died on the Maidan were buried..
When they returned to the base, they realized that for the first time their duty was not to protect public order, but to guard peace in Crimea..
Kiev promised to restore order in southeastern Ukraine and elsewhere, where residents were opposed to the ideas of the Maidan..
I’m sure that with Crimea’s ethnic composition, things would have been even worse,.
And we had to take certain actions to prevent such negative developments..
We wanted to prevent tragedies like the one that occurred later in Odessa, where dozens of people were burned alive..
We needed to prevent bloodshed no matter what..
Simferopol residents guarded the Berkut base round the clock against nationalists. They brought in sandbags to prepare for attacks by Kiev. The fighters were issued weapons..
Yury Abisov (commander of the Crimean Berkut battalion, commander of the Special Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Crimea since August 2014): We knew what they were capable of. We knew what they were capable of. They used ice picks to break arms. Someone would say, "Break his right arm, he used it to throw grenades.".
They would sew up a bloodied eye, saying, "He won’t need it anymore, sew it up.".
And they would do it without anesthesia... That was their way of torturing people..
Come on, open the gates. Here’s where the armored personnel carrier stood. We showed everyone that we were ready for any challenge and we would confront any uninvited guests....
That is, in case of … Yes. In case you came under direct fire? Yes, direct fire. When the threat was growing, when we felt threatened and that they were coming after us, we were ready for what might come..
Arsen Avakov, whom the Verkhovna Rada appointed as the Minister of Internal Affairs, issued an order to disband Berkut for “completely discrediting themselves before the Ukrainian people.”.
Any unit in the regions that did not obey the order was considered an illegal armed gang..
Yury Abisov (commander of the Crimean Berkut battalion, commander of the Special Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Crimea since August 2014): I arrived in the morning, called the officers into my room and I said, “Let’s vote by show of hands, like they did on the collective farms,.
To know where we stand: who is going to stay with us to the end and who is going to leave – I would understand, we would all understand that decision..
Where we’ll go next – to the mountains or to fight our way to somewhere in Russia –.
I’ll think about it as your commander, but now each of us has to make a choice.” And everybody, to a man, raised their hands. One and all..
And you decided to defend yourselves? Yes, we decided to begin with defending ourselves and our families..
After Maidan, Crimean Berkut introduced new elements to their training regiment. After Maidan, Crimean Berkut introduced new elements to their training regiment. The special unit officers began practicing not only their own techniques, but the counter-methods that were used on the Maidan against them..
So, they had practiced all this in advance? Yury Abisov (commander of the Crimean Berkut battalion, commander of the Special Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Crimea since August 2014): The Americans invited over Ukrainian security forces to share experience, to upgrade their skills..
They would give them a sheet of paper and tell them to write down how they would handle such a crowd, what the formation would be….
So, the Ukrainian unit commanders wrote… Yes, they wrote down their tactics, how they would handle a crowd of hoodlums, or ultras, or rioters..
That was back in 2006. And then they issued manuals, “How to Counter Berkut,” which described how to pull off an officer’s helmet….
Were they already writing instructions for the Right Sector back then? Yes, yes..
Officially the opposition was backed primarily by the Europeans..
But we knew perfectly well – it wasn’t just a hunch – we knew for certain that the real puppeteers pulling the strings were our American partners and friends..
They helped to train the nationalists, they helped to train the combat units in western Ukraine, in Poland, and in Lithuania to some extent..
What did out partners do? They assisted the coup..
That is to say, they started acting from a position of strength..
I don’t think this is the best way to conduct international affairs in general, but especially with regard to the post-Soviet states..
Because these countries have not yet found their bearings, they are vulnerable. Their statehood, constitutions and systems of laws should be handled with care..
All this was discarded and trampled on. And you see the dire consequences..
Some went along with it, but others refuse to accept it. The country has been split..
It became clear after Maidan that Ukraine was being divided methodically, according to instructions that even covered bloodletting..
One of the methods used on Maidan became known as Carpathian Beech..
Sergei Marchenko (commander of OMON Berkut of the Republic of Crimea): The first line was unarmed, they had nothing in their hands. The second line sprayed varnish, paint on the visors. The officer was blinded, and when he lifted his visor he was hit in the face with a wooden stake..
“Beware of stones.” Sergei Marchenko, commander of the Crimean Berkut special unit, and his men were on the Maidan the entire time..
He fully understands methods mobs use..
There were specially trained people who found gaps, weak spots in these tactical formations..
So they targeted these unprotected areas with Molotov cocktails?.
Each officer on the Maidan lost five or six uniforms to fire. They put out the flames on each other using as many as 20 fire extinguishers an hour at times..
One officer of Crimean Berkut was killed and 32 sustained gunshot wounds during the 24 hours when unidentified snipers were at work..
Yury Abisov (commander of the Crimean Berkut battalion, commander of the Special Rapid Response Unit of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Crimea since August 2014):If you look at the types of injuries: there were wounds on the hands from holding their shields, which they could no longer pick up, wounds on the knees from being kicked. So, the shooting was not done by ordinary Ukrainians who had come to demand their rights because they didn’t like the Yanukovych government..
Berkut was attacked by professional sharp-shooters who had fought in many hot spots..
It was a planned and rehearsed method that had been used in many countries to overthrow the legitimate government. Period..
Before doing what they did in Kiev on February 22, they should have thought about the consequences.
That this type of solving political problems would have for the country..
It’s easy to turn everything upside down, but it’s important to be mindful of the legitimate interests of one’s partners.
If we want to treat each other with respect. As for historical justice, we have called and still call Sevastopol a city of Russian naval glory..
And where was our Sevastopol, where was Russian naval glory? Everything changed..
Indeed, no other Russian city had so much blood shed to defend it..
A Hero City, a Fortress City, an Admiral City. It has always stood apart. Even in Soviet times when Crimea was handed over to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, “glorious Sevastopol” remained a city under the jurisdiction of the USSR. Nowhere was love for Russia demonstrated as fervently as in Sevastopol, nowhere in Crimea were the anti-Bandera rallies as large..
Crowd chanting: Down with fascism! Down with fascism! Down with fascism!.
Only here, in a city that was de jure Ukrainian, did the people choose a citizen of Russia as their mayor at a rally on February 23..
Alexei Chaly (Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the City of Sevastopol): In 1991, when Yeltsin came out and said we’ve decided to bury the Soviet Union,.
After Belovezhskaya Pushcha, I thought to myself: "That’s it." And then year after year, I observed the gradual changes in day-to-day life: currency,.
Passport control on the border, the curriculum at schools and pre-schools, little by little….
All of a sudden we had state television, in Ukrainian of course. It makes no sense, does it? Nobody in the city speaks Ukrainian..
In Sevastopol, unlike in Crimea, they never taught Ukrainian. The population had special status. And then they gradually began tightening the screws..
More than 40 laws were passed that limited the official use of the Russian language. All the business paperwork had to be in Ukrainian..
Many officials were sent in from Kiev and western Ukraine. They were afraid of separatism? Yeah, but they still couldn’t do anything about it. Alexei Chaly refurbished the famous 35th Battery of Sevastopol himself, with his own money and donations. Seamen now take their oath here..
Remark: … the combat readiness of the ships and units, to add to the glorious battle traditions of the Black Sea Fleet..
Remark: Serving the Russian Federation. Yes sir! Many years ago a textbook on Sevastopol was published using private funds..
Sevastopol’s history was taught at schools to counter the official history curriculum, which glorified Stepan Bandera..
The people of the city of Russian glory not only cherished their own historical and cultural code, they resisted alien codes..
So, when they call the Crimean Spring the third defense of Sevastopol, local residents are quick to correct: “In the spring of 2014 we were not defending but attacking..
We were defending ourselves during the 23 preceding years.”.
Viktor Melnikov (member of 3rd Rapid Response Company of Sevastopol, Afghanistan war veteran): Sevastopol has earned eternal glory, in spite of 23 years of occupation….
You consider it occupation? Yes, occupation. I’m one of the officers who did not take the Ukrainian oath. We have preserved our love of Russia, our history. Sevastopol is not a simple city at all, not at all….
Viktor Melnikov, squad commander of the 13th Guards Rapid Response Company of the Sevastopol self-defense forces..
The self-defense forces were established here in December 2013, two months before shooting started on the Maidan..
After the coup in Kiev, nearly all Sevastopol residents joined the self-defense forces..
In my 60 years, I’ve never seen people become so selflessly united in heart and mind and dedicated to the defense of their city..
Have they saved it? Yes, they have. And if necessary, we’ll do it again!.
For Russians, Crimea is a heroic part of our history..
This includes the period when this territory was incorporated into Russia, and the heroic defense and surrender of Crimea and Sevastopol during the Second World War..
Crimea is connected to Russian history, Russian literature, the arts, and the Czar’s family..
By and large, the entire fabric of Russian history is intertwined with Crimea one way or another..
Simferopol, February 26, 2014. The Supreme Council of Crimea called an emergency meeting..
There were plans to hold a referendum to determine the future status of the autonomous region. But the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, acting on orders from the Maidan, rallied several thousand people on the square..
Mr. Aksyonov, this is the same place where that demonstration was held on February 26..
You were directly involved in it. What do you remember? How was it? Sergei Aksyonov (head of the Republic of Crimea, leader of the all-Ukrainian party Russian Unity, 2008-2014): I remember everything. How could I not? Kiev instructed the leaders of the Crimean Mejlis to prevent us from holding all parliament meetings in Crimea..
If possible, they were to seize the Crimean parliament. The majority of Crimean Tatars say they never wanted this conflict. But the police took the wrong stand, and we had to start amassing our people left of the entrance. The majority of Crimean Tatars say they never wanted this conflict..
There? Yes. Kiev also dispatched members of the Right Sector here to support the Mejlis. They were waiving “Bandera flags.”.
It is these people who had started the first clashes by noon..
Igor Georgiyevsky was among those who tried to stop the crowd from breaking into the Supreme Council..
Igor Georgiyevsky (A Cossack of the Terek Cossack Host in Crimea and Sevastopol): Yes, there was a red-and-black Bandera banner. Vadim Ilovchenko (Ataman of the Terek Cossack Host in Crimea and Sevastopol): Yes, there was a Bandera flag. An addition to Ukrainian flags. They wanted to show how strong they were. When they caught you under the elbows, they actually lifted you off the ground. One line of people came against the opposing line, moving back and forth, trying to stand their ground….
This is a very tiring thing. We parted to catch our breath..
Mikhail Sheremet (Сommander of the Crimean self-defense forces): They wedged into the crowd, pressing onward and taking up the rear..
I was right there, together with Sergei Turchanenko, 1st Company Commander. This is where I was knocked off my feet….
Right here? Yes. Without assistance I wouldn’t have gotten back on my feet. I’m grateful to him, for he saved me from being trodden on. Platoon Commander Pavel Taran from the 3rd Company, who fought in Afghanistan, filmed this footage..
According to him, 30 people were taken to the hospital that day, and they were the lucky ones..
Pavel Taran (Platoon Commander of the 3rd Afghan Company of the Crimean self-defense forces): The pushing and shoving was really intense. Near us, an old man fell down. We tried to pick him up to save him from being trodden on..
They tore him apart. We just couldn’t keep the crowd back. Was that old man one of those who died that day? Yes, he died. Shouts from the crowd: Where’s the ambulance? Quick! Guys, what’s happening?.
And then bottles with water and sand and a strange powder were flung into the crowd from the group with the Mejlis and Right Sector flags..
The injured Crimeans were pressed back, and the crowd stormed into the parliament..
Mikhail Sheremet (Commander of the Crimean self-defense forces): They were shouting as they moved on, and we saw them heading towards the door. They had one goal: to break down the door and enter the building..
Which door exactly? The one we are looking at right now. That one, the outermost one..
But after they entered the building where their compatriots were sitting in session, the Crimean Tatars got flustered..
They clearly didn’t know what to do. The Mejlis leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, stopped issuing orders over the phone, and the Right Sector extremists who had seized buildings in Kiev did not enter the Crimean parliament..
Shouts from the crowd: Glory to the heroes! Glory to Ukraine!.
It turned out that the self-defense forces have blocked the outsiders. They have singled out the Maidan leaders from Kiev and Lviv, even though they pretended to be ordinary people taking part in a spontaneous protest..
On the outside, it may seem like a spontaneous demonstration. Enver Kurtametov (Commander of the 15th Company of the Crimean self-defense forces): No, Andrei, you’re mistaken. It was an arranged rally. See this man in a red coat? He is a curator. Do you see him? The one in a red coat, you can see him clearly..
These men in red are all curators, keeping about a dozen meters from each other. And this one is probably the group leader. He always kept his hood on, so that we couldn’t see his face. Here he is. And here’s one more..
Did they deliberately create that line of confrontation, with Slavs on one side and Tatars on the other? Yes, they wanted to pit Slavs and Crimean Tatars against each other, so that they would start a war, start slaughtering each other..
I’m a Crimean Tatar myself. My people were deceived. They were told that if we reunite with Russia, they would again be deported to Magadan or the Urals. Such rubbish….
They tried to scare the Tatars with deportation? Yes, that’s what they said. The self-defense forces saw that the majority of ordinary Crimean Tatars were surprised by the methods used by some of the people on their side..
Here, I’ll show something. See here? They are covering their faces. Some even had gas masks ready..
In addition to nerve gases, they also used a new trick – fluorescent lamp glass ground into a fine dust..
Everyone who was covered by that dust couldn’t open his or her eyes for several days..
Mikhail Sheremet (Commander of the Crimean self-defense forces): A cutting feeling and pain. People felt as if they had been blinded..
Vadim Ilovchenko (Ataman of the Terek Cossack Host in Crimea and Sevastopol): If memory serves, Sergei Aksyonov was moving from the central entrance, his face badly beaten… He got his share of blows too. Yes, and he also tried to break up the fight. He tried to part the fighters..
Sergei Aksyonov in the crowd: Cossacks, over here! To the left, guys! Sergei Aksyonov (head of the Republic of Crimea, leader of the all-Ukrainian party Russian Unity, 2008-2014): I did my best to set them apart. Some of my colleagues suggested taking up arms… As you understand, it’s one thing to take up arms against Kiev, the Right Sector or against someone else, and it’s quite another matter when you face Crimeans, even if they are of a different nationality..
Sergei Aksyonov at a rally: Crimeans are expecting people of all nationalities to come here for holiday, to work and to be friends..
Some Crimean Tatars were under the influence of their leaders..
Some of these leaders are professional – I repeat, professional – fighters for the rights of Crimean Tatars, for human rights..
For some of them the situation is not comfortable because the people don’t need them anymore..
The Crimean Tatars are not a homogenous group; there are different people among them. The local self-defense forces acted very energetically,.
And they were supported by part of the Crimean Tatars..
The self-defense forces recruited the assistance of the Crimean Tatars; there were Crimean Tatars in the self-defense forces..
The Mejlis leaders tried to convince the people that their life would worsen dramatically after Crimea’s reunification with Russia..
Enver Kurtametov, Commander of the 15th Company of the Crimean self-defense forces, easily opened his compatriots’ eyes to the truth: their life can’t get any worse because it’s already as bad as it can get..
Enver Kurtametov (Commander of the 15th Company of the Crimean self-defense forces): We saw nothing good from Ukraine during all these years. Nothing good at all. When Crimea was part of Ukraine, the official pay was only 1,200 hryvnias. How can you feed a family with that? How? You see that people can’t even build a home for themselves..
The village of Mamut-Sultan, one of many in the historical territory where Crimean Tatars lived from the 14th to the 17th century..
When they returned here from Central Asia thirty years ago, they returned into the Middle Ages,.
And they are still living in the past, without water or a sewage system, without heat and electricity..
Lilia Okazova (from the village of Mamut-Sultan): Come in, and don’t take off your shoes. Please..
Come in. These are the beds. Three of us sleep here. My son has a job in the village. These are shelves with our belongings. In all, there are five of us here. There are five of us and one… In this small wagon? Yes, yes. Remark: I have nowhere to live and I have four kids. The state didn’t provide us with any housing at all. There’s no water, no electricity, no drivable roads. In winter you walk in mud up to your knees. Did Kiev always keep its promises? No, hardly ever. They’re just manipulating us. They are using us, you know, as leverage. That’s all..
Enver Kurtametov was in Kiev when, after the victory of Maidan, nationalists were persecuting Russian-speaking Crimeans..
Through some back-ways, he helped bring some 360 Crimeans back home. In Crimea, he immediately formed a multiethnic squadron to protect people from Banderites..
Enver Kurtametov (commander of Squadron 15 of the Crimean self-defense forces): We had to patrol for days on end, sometimes without sleep..
And not just us but the entire self-defense forces were serving for days without any rest..
One day a delicate looking young woman enlisted to work in the medical unit of his squadron. For Enver, it was his personal Crimean spring..
Marina Kornitskaya (Enver Kurtametov’s wife): We got married seven days after we met. Was it love at first sight if you were married seven days later? Yes. She saw me, conquered me and got all of me. There is a belief in Kiev that Russia and Crimea will never work it out because Russians will never be in good relations with Crimean Tatars..
What do you think, Marina? Marina Kornitskaya (Enver Kurtametov’s wife): I personally have very good relations with the Crimean Tatars..
(A girl recites a poem in the Crimean Tatar language.).
Domes of churches and minarets of mosques in Crimea have been very close for centuries, whether it’s Alushta or Simferopol, Sudak or Kerch..
Bakhchysarai is a capital of the former Crimean khanate. Who praised the fountain here better than Pushkin?.
There are 150 ethnicities in Crimea. Most importantly, what people have really feared since Perestroika is imported inter-ethnic conflict..
We do not intend to offend anyone, Crimean Tatars, the Germans who live there, the Greeks, or Armenians, or Russians and Ukrainians..
We want them all to be a big family. Speaking of the historical issues the Crimean Tatar face, we believe it is our duty to resolve them together with all the ethnicities living there..
We are not dividing anyone by ethnicity. They are all citizens of the Russian Federation. Even during those events, I was pleasantly surprised. I was talking to Crimeans and asked them how many Ukrainians there are and they were stunned and replied:.
“You know, we don’t make this distinction. We are like one family.”.
Public uplift and unity that would almost immediately be dubbed the Crimean Spring appeared within several days..
On February 22, following the Maidan events, Berkut takes an oath of loyalty to Crimea..
On February 23, Alexei Chaliy was elected people’s mayor at a massive rally..
Meanwhile, recruitment for the people’s militia continues in Simferopol..
On February 24, in Kerch, Yevpatoria, Feodosiya, Yalta, Sevastopol and Simferopol, people protest and call for reunification with Russia..
On February 25, at a protest in Simferopol, people decide not to obey the Ukrainian authorities any more..
On February 27, a so-called “friendship train” departs from Kiev to Crimea..
Ihor Mosiychuk, a Right Sector leader who said that “the Crimean separatists would pay for everything,” was behind the initiative..
It was zero hour for the Crimean self-defense forces..
At 8:15 p.m., when the train was to arrive, a punitive operation was to begin in Simferopol..
The militia went to the railway station to meet the thugs who had gone through the bloodshed of Maidan..
They carried everything they could with them, from batons, metal pieces and Molotov cocktails, to firearms that they obtained by looting the military units in the Lviv region..
Crimeans knew about that..
Mikhail Sheremet (commander of the Crimean people’s defense forces): We are closing our ranks so that the nationalists do not enter our land..
We saw what they did in the main square in Kiev. Have you seen what’s left of it?.
It is all ruins and ashes. We were teaming up to defend our land, our families, our homes..
Who were the people in your squadron? There were successful business people who arrived in beautiful expensive cars and stood in line with ordinary builders, workers, people from all walks of life..
We had a division of blacksmiths who provided us with shields..
Oleg Krivoruchenko (blacksmith): We worked for days on end and produced 40 shields a day on average..
We slept here, ate here and worked stepping over those who were sleeping. We were learning from the Maidan experience. For example, we filled eyeholes in case they tried to use Molotov cocktails against us..
The militia said that even aluminum shield, special police forces use, were no good..
These are of course much heavier. They are made of steel. So they can stop a bullet? Well, I don’t know if they can stop a bullet. But perhaps, they can protect against a spent bullet..
The blacksmiths’ armor that they put on to “greet” the armed to the teeth nationalists would probably not protect them from the gunfire..
They did not have weapons but they had faith and tricolor painted shields. Reenactment. Mikhail Sheremet (commander of the Crimean people’s defense forces): We were encouraging each other. I could see fear in my fellow fighters’ eyes. We were aware of what we were getting into. We were aware that they were not coming empty-handed. We were aware of why they were coming. But we overcame the fear and believed that we could stop the train..
After waiting for three hours in suspense, the commander got a report. The train was about to arrive..
The shields on the platform closed. More waiting..
Mikhail Sheremet (commander of the Crimean self-defense forces): Two hours later, the train arrived. It was a scary sight, like a ghost train..
What were the people thinking and talking about at that moment? We wouldn’t let them in. We’d rather die..
People of all ethnicities and faiths were united around one single flag, the flag of Crimea..
The train was stopping in front of the militia. The windows were open. The lights were on. And then they realized that the “friendship train” was empty..
Mikhail Sheremet (commander of the Crimean people’s defense forces): I think their intelligence had provided them with information. Apparently, they got alerts from the railway station that there were people waiting, that the Crimeans would not let them go through. It was animal fear. They pulled the emergency stop valve and took off. As it turned out later, before reaching Crimea, the Banderite troops demanded the train be stopped. They spent three hours unloading tons of weapons from the train..
The Ukrainian Security Service alerted the Right Sector that some 1,500 militia men were waiting for them in Simferopol..
The nationalists didn’t expect this..
Thank God it ended this way. We are in fact peaceful people..
We don’t want any bloodshed or conflict. We just want to live in peace and prosperity. This is what united us..
You see, all of us are guided by the desire to save our land, and by personal things, including our families who are our “home front.”.
What role did the local self-defense forces play in this all-out Russian Spring that came to Crimea?.
An extremely huge role. I believe they played one of the main roles..
Again, when we went away at 7 a.m., I also told my colleagues that we would only do all this if we saw that the people wanted it..
And of course we needed to rely on local militias..
You know, we even had to restrain some of them at a certain point. But really they were almost always in the foreground..
Samvel Martoyan is one of the most famous self-defense force commanders. Samvel Martoyan (commander of the 4th company of Crimean self-defense forces): This is our homeland. You and I must defend our homeland because we’re men, right? Son of Martoyan: Right. He is a former Soviet officer and resident of Crimea. In February 2014, he formed a company that was armed with shovel handles and commanded it..
On February 27, his 4th company received the first combat order from Sergei Aksyonov..
We were standing. Mr. Aksyonov came outside and told us to take the airport..
I said: “All right, no problem. Are there any means?”.
“We only have shovel handles,” he replied. All right, let it be shovel handles..
On February 27, the Simferopol airport, the largest in Crimea, suddenly became what was probably the main threat..
Kiev panicked after learning about the decision of Crimea’s MPs and began preparing to land an assault force in Simferopol..
At that time, the self-defense fighters didn’t even know how to prevent a formation of military planes from landing at the airport..
Armed police officers stood in their way. They would have probably shot us if they’d wanted to..
But, to be honest, they really supported us in their heart of hearts. The police that included local Crimea residents actually supported the self-defense fighters and basically allowed them to proceed..
We looked at each other: “Let’s go?” “Yes.”.
We approached the iron fence and started breaking it down. Reenactment..
Samvel Martoyan’s plan was simple but sound – to light up fuel barrels on the runway,.
So that Ukrainian military pilots would be able to see that it was impossible to land..
Samvel Martoyan (commander of the 4th company of Crimea’s self-defense forces): We ran over there, put the barrels in place and were getting ready to light them up. We lit the torches, and I called Mr. Aksyonov..
I said, “Mr. Aksyonov, I am standing on the runway, and I’m ready to set the barrels on fire.”.
He told me to wait for orders. About 30 seconds later, he said, “Samvel, we have done our duty, in short, Kiev has been told that the runway has been seized, and landing is impossible.”.
But it was too early for the self-defense fighters to celebrate. The Security Service of Ukraine was placed on alert, with many operatives from its Crimea division supporting the Euromaidan government..
People wielding assault rifles ran towards us and held us in one area. We approached the terminal and stood there..
Reenactment. - Who are you? - We are Crimean self-defense fighters, my name is Samvel, I am a company commander. - Why did you break the gate? - Officer, we broke it because there was no one to open it. - Who supports you? - The people of Crimea. - People of Crimea, why did you break the gate? - We broke it, and we’ll repair it. Everything will be OK. - Are you locals? - Yes we are. - Well, locals, you have entered a restricted area. Your trespass is seen as a terrorist act..
- Officer, please don’t raise your voice. I’m explaining… - Ready! - Please wait. - You have two minutes to lay down your weapons! - We don’t have any weapons, what are you talking about? - We are counting. - Where are your weapons? - What’s got into you? - Will you shoot unarmed people? Samvel Martoyan (commander of the 4th company of Crimea’s self-defense forces): And then I heard the sound of approaching trucks. Reenactment..
Remark from the crowd: Stay put, boys. That was the critical moment. What were you thinking at that moment? Honestly? I was thinking that someone had come here to shoot us. Police with assault rifles were right behind us, and there were four KAMAZ trucks in front..
I said to get ready for battle, but we only had shovel handles for weapons..
We were standing, and none of my men ran off or backed away..
Trucks pulled up, and soldiers started jumping out. Reenactment..
Then we realized that they were Russian soldiers. Tears welled up in the eyes of some of my men. We immediately started applauding. They came out, approached us quietly and silently, and they walked past us..
We started shouting that we had been waiting for them for a long while, and we also started shouting: “Russia, Russia!”.
Were they the polite people? Yes, the polite little green men..
It took the self-defense fighters awhile to realize that the Ukraine Security Service and police officers with assault rifles had disappeared..
At that moment, Crimea residents were focused on the well-equipped men who had so unexpectedly come to the rescue..
Chanting: “Russia!” Commandos from the Black Sea Fleet’s marine force arrived from Sevastopol. They seized strategic positions in just a few minutes and established control over Simferopol International Airport..
The most surprising thing is that the airport personnel and passengers noticed nothing, and the airport continued to operate as usual..
They arrived just in time. But for them, the situation here would have been much worse than in Donbas..
Mr. Martoyan has been talking about Donbas a lot. He volunteered to fight in Donbas, after hostilities began. He addressed Crimean residents from bombed-out Gorlovka: “You simply cannot imagine what horrors Russia saved us from during the Crimean Spring.”.
Son of Samvel Martoyan: Dad, look, a plane. Samvel Martoyan: Yes, I can see it. Looks beautiful, right? Right. Did you ever fly a plane before? Yes. Did I tell you? Yes..
The Euromaidan government in Kiev completely lost control over the Simferopol airport.
After unarmed self-defense fighters entered the Crimean air traffic control center..
They teamed up with air traffic controllers and rerouted Ukrainian airplanes in the next four days, and Kiev lost all hope of launching an air assault..
It’s so good that we are now part of Russia, and that all this is now history..
It’s so good that this land will now breathe normally and lead a normal life..
This is probably genetic memory: this air, this land is generating an aura that people should not forget….
My grandfather spilled his blood on this territory. And my son will walk this land feeling proud that we have not betrayed who we are..
We never thought about taking Crimea from Ukraine. Never..
But when the events relating to the coup started to unfold, and power was seized by force and in an anti-constitutional manner,.
These people ran into danger of becoming victims of nationalists..
Of course, back than we were quick to realize this, at least I did..
The first thing I did was instruct the Presidential Staff to carry out an unofficial opinion survey in Crimea to gauge attitudes regarding Crimea joining Russia..
As it turned out, 75 percent of the population was willing to join Russia..
I’ve already mentioned that historically Crimea was Russian territory where ethnic Russians l