April 15 was the 10-year anniversary since the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a law that defines the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) and the city of Sevastopol as territories under temporary occupation.” During this time, Russia has managed to turn it into a territory of fear, persecution, and its military base. Yet, despite all its efforts, the enemy has failed to break the Crimean people or to get its annexation recognized by the international community. Crimea is waiting for Ukraine, and the numerous successes of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the active resistance movement that is only gaining momentum on the peninsula are proof of this because all of it would not have been possible without the pro-Ukrainian population on the peninsula.

When the Russians seized Crimea in violation of international law, no one doubted that the Kremlin’s promises of a “paradise life” and “a million tourists” for the peninsula’s residents would be empty, and the way the occupiers actually behave towards Crimeans proves once again that the world is dealing with a criminal.

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This, in particular, can be confirmed by the Crimean Tatars, who have already had the tragic experience of being evicted from their land and in 2014 began to be persecuted again. After the seizure of the peninsula, many indigenous people recalled the times of Stalinism: mass persecution, abductions by security forces, imprisonment, and mysterious killings became the norm in Crimea.

Partisans Discover Location of Russian Intelligence and Secret Training Center in Crimea
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Partisans Discover Location of Russian Intelligence and Secret Training Center in Crimea

A Russian soldier, an agent of the Ukrainian partisans, reported about the Sevastopol training center where he was trained – allegedly a school for divers.

Russians also violate international law through the illegal mobilization of the local population and the mass militarization of children.

Thus, according to the representative of the President of Ukraine in the ARC Tamila Tasheva, as of the end of 2023, the occupation authorities had conscripted 44,500 Crimeans into the Russian army as part of the partial mobilization, of whom 525 have already been killed and were probably Ukrainian citizens. However, it is difficult to determine the exact number as Russia conceals its losses.

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Russia has also involved more than 30,000 Crimean children in the Yunarmiya movement created by the Russian Ministry of Defense, opening cadet classes in schools and holding demonstrations by the military even for preschoolers.

Despite this, there were people in Crimea who were not afraid. Some of them openly declared their pro-Ukrainian position, while others joined the hidden resistance movement.

In particular, about 6,000 Crimeans are members of the Yellow Ribbon civil resistance movement, which operates in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and constantly reminds the occupiers that they are here temporarily.

The Atesh military guerrilla movement, created by Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, has also made a loud statement, its members conducting reconnaissance and collecting data on enemy personnel, equipment, and weapons. The Crimean Wind monitoring group also monitors the number of Russian equipment.

Recently, there have been reports of the emergence of another movement of resistance to the occupiers in Crimea – Resistance of the Nation.

Also, thanks to the work of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, and various troops, the balance of power in the Black Sea has changed. Ukraine, which lost most of its fleet after 2014 and then after the start of the full-scale invasion in 2022, managed to “turn the tables” on Russia’s main power and pride in Crimea, the Black Sea Fleet, and the city of Sevastopol.

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In total, the Ukrainian military managed to destroy one third of the total number of 80 ships, while 15 units remain damaged for repair.

We can say that the strategic importance of Crimea for Russia is undergoing certain changes as a result of actions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces. So, no matter how hard the Russians try to turn the peninsula into an impregnable fortress, the Ukrainian Defense Forces and the Crimean residents themselves prove that such intentions are unrealizable.

Speaking of the occupation of Crimea, we should not forget that it has also affected international security: as long as Crimea is in Russian hands, no country in the Black Sea region can feel secure, as Moscow has repeatedly proven that international agreements or rules are not for it. Returning Crimea to Ukraine, supporting this process by the international community, and holding Russia accountable for the annexation will send a clear signal to all totalitarian countries that in the 21st century, international law and norms, not the whims of tyrants, should rule the world.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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