On 27 February, Russian special forces seized the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea and the building of the Council of Ministers in Simferopol. Russian flags were raised over these buildings, and barricades were erected outside them. Whilst the “little green men” were occupying the Crimean parliament building, the parliament held an emergency session. It voted to terminate the Crimean government, and replace Prime Minister Anatolii Mohyliov with Sergey Aksyonov. Aksyonov belonged to the Russian Unity party, which received 4% of the vote in the last election. According to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Prime Minister of Crimea is appointed by the Supreme Council of Crimea in consultation with the President of Ukraine. Both Aksyonov and speaker Vladimir Konstantinov stated that they viewed Viktor Yanukovych as the de jure president of Ukraine, through whom they were able to ask Russia for assistance.
The parliament also voted to hold a referendum on greater autonomy set for 25 May. The troops had cut all of the building’s communications, and took MPs’ phones as they entered. No independent journalists were allowed inside the building while the votes were taking place. Some MPs said they were being threatened and that votes were cast for them and other MPs, even though they were not in the chamber. Interfax-Ukraine reported “it is impossible to find out whether all the 64 members of the 100-member legislature who were registered as present at when the two decisions were voted on or whether someone else used the plastic voting cards of some of them” because due to the armed occupation of parliament it was unclear how many MPs were present. The head of parliament’s information and analysis department, Olha Sulnikova, had phoned from inside the parliamentary building to journalists and had told them 61 of the registered 64 deputies had voted for the referendum resolution and 55 for the resolution to dismiss the government. Donetsk People’s Republic separatist Igor Girkin said in January 2015 that Crimean members of parliament were held at gunpoint, and were forced to support the annexation. These actions were immediately declared illegal by the Ukrainian interim government.
On the same day, more troops in unmarked uniforms, assisted this time by what appeared to be local Berkut riot police (as well as Russian troops from the 31st Separate Airborne Assault Brigade dressed in Berkut uniforms), established security checkpoints on the Isthmus of Perekop and the Chonhar Peninsula, which separate Crimea from the Ukrainian mainland. Within hours, Ukraine had effectively been cut off from Crimea. Shortly after Ukrainian TV channels were made unavailable for Crimean viewers, some of them were replaced with Russian stations.
Blockade of military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the capture of Crimea by Russia in February–March 2014
On 1 March 2014, Aksyonov said that he would exercise control of all Ukrainian military and security installations on the peninsula. He also asked Putin for “assistance in ensuring peace and tranquility” in Crimea. Putin promptly received authorisation from the Federation Council of Russia for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine until the “political-social situation in the country is normalized”. Putin’s swift manoeuvre prompted protests of some Russian intelligentsia and demonstrations in Moscow against a Russian military campaign in Crimea. By 2 March, Russian troops moving from the country’s naval base in Sevastopol and reinforced by troops, armour, and helicopters from mainland Russia exercised complete control over the Crimean Peninsula. Russian troops operated in Crimea without insignia. On 3 March blockaded Southern Naval Base. On 4 March, Ukrainian General Staff claimed there were units of the 18th Motor Rifle Brigade, 31st Air Assault Brigade and 22nd Spetsnaz Brigade deployed and operating in Crimea, instead of Russian Black Sea Fleet personnel, which violated international agreements signed by Ukraine and Russia. Despite numerous media reports and statements by the Ukrainian and foreign governments describing the unmarked troops as Russian soldiers, government officials concealed the identity of their forces, claiming they were local “self-defence” units over whom they had no authority. As late as 17 April, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that there are no “excessive Russian troops” in Ukraine.
Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation – WikipediaAnnexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation – Wikipedia