As the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula marks its eighth anniversary, other cities of Ukraine are now living under the violent shadow of a similar threat.
On Nov. 21, 2013, protests broke out in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv after Viktor Yanukovych, then the nation’s pro-Russian president, refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union
After the eruption of street protests and public outcries, Yanukovych fled the country on Feb. 22, 2014, and pro-Western politicians took over the government.
With the formation of a new administration in Kyiv, military units coming from the Russian base on the peninsula became visible in various cities of the country.
Despite the violation of agreements from 1997 and 2010 between Ukraine and Russia on the location of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Russian troops moved into the peninsula and relocated.
On Feb. 25, 2014, pro-Russians began to put pressure on Ukraine’s parliament for Russian annexation of Crimea. After blocking access to the Crimean parliament, nearly 400 pro-Russian supporters demanded a referendum for Crimea to declare its independence.
Gunmen on the peninsula in green military uniforms with masks but no markings began to take control of public buildings on Feb. 27.
The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, convening on March 6, 2014 under the shadow of the mysterious “green men,” announced that a referendum was set to be hold on the fate of Crimea. From this period onwards, those armed men tried to push the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians away from the peninsula.
Despite Crimean Tatars’ objections and boycotts of the parliament's decision, a so-called referendum was held on the peninsula on March 16, 2014. The pro-Russian armed forces reported the result of the referendum in favor of Moscow and that Crimea would become Russian territory.
International organizations, especially the United Nations General Assembly, and many countries, including Turkiye, opposed the referendum and deemed it illegal and invalid.
Moscow, on the other hand, recognized the referendum.
After the illegal annexation, Crimean Tatars faced growing repression. After Crimea came under Russian rule, pro-Ukrainian Crimean Tatars, especially leaders, were pressured over the events of Feb. 26, when some 10,000 people squared off against a group of pro-Russian separatists. The Rights of the Crimean Tatar Turks began to be violented and resulted in many of them getting arrested.
Late last year, Russia began deploying tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine. While the US said that Russia was clearly preparing to invade, Russia repeatedly denied it, saying the soldiers were only carrying out exercises.
Despite Western countries' threats to impose sanctions on Russia, Moscow then recognized two Russian-backed separatist enclaves in Donbas and began to launch attacks on Ukrainian territory on Feb. 24.
Although negotiations between delegations of the two sides continues, Russia's attack on Ukraine from the east, north and south is now nearly three weeks old.
Millions of Ukrainians live in fear that their cities and towns, too, will have their legitimate governments illegally usurped by Russia, joining the fate of the Ukrainian Peninsula.