Ukraine knew about Russia’s imminent invasion of Crimea as early as January 2014, reports Krym.Realii. The then head of the Ukrainian General Staff, Volodymyr Zamana, confirmed that on January 31, 2014, paratroopers and special forces were put into combat readiness state. Ukrainian elite units were preparing to oust the Russian military from the territory of the peninsula.
According to former Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council Serhiy Kryvonos, who then headed a regiment of Ukrainian special forces, paratroopers were to go to Crimea in February. The operation to liberate the peninsula was planned for early March, the troops were to enter Crimea and strengthen the Ukrainian forces stationed in Crimea.
Kryvonos said that the General Staff had developed a three-stage plan for the liberation of Crimea. At that time, the units of the 25th Airborne Brigade were already carrying out planned exercises in the peninsula.
Kryvonos added that the Ukrainian military command was considering the option of capturing Ukrainian territories. Many military units were supposed to be part of this plan to repel possible attempts to seize the Ukrainian territory. Among them were units of the Airborne Forces: 25th Airborne Brigade and the 79th Air Assault brigade.
According to Kryvonos , the plan failed because one of the most combat-capable Ukrainian units in Crimea, the 36th border guards brigade based in Perevalnoye, surrendered to the enemy.
In February 2014, armed people in uniforms without insignias appeared in Crimea and captured the Supreme Council of Crimea, the Simferopol Airport, the Kerch ferry crossing and other strategic objects, and prevented the Ukrainian army from taking action. Initially, the Russian government refused to acknowledge that these armed people were Russian soldiers, but President Vladimir Putin later admitted it.
On 16 March 2014, a referendum on the status of Crimea was held in Crimea and Sevastopol, in which the inhabitants supposedly voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia. The outcome of the so-called referendum is not recognized by Ukraine, the EU or the US. On 18 March, Putin announced the “annexation” of Crimea to Russia.
International organizations have declared the annexation illegal and condemned Russia’s actions. Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in connection with the annexation. Russia claims to have “restored historical justice”. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, declared 20 February 2014 the start of Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol.