Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation

annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation in 2014

In February and March 2014, Russia invaded and annexed (took over) the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. This event took place after the Revolution of Dignity. It is part of the wider Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation
Part of the pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and the Russo-Ukrainian War

Russian President Vladimir Putin signs the treaty of accession with Crimean leaders in Moscow, 18 March 2014.
  • Military operation: 20 February[note 1] – 26 March 2014[6] (1 month and 6 days)
  • Annexation: 18 March 2014
Result Russian strategic and territorial victory
Commanders and leaders
Units involved

Based in Crimea,
elements of


  • 510th Naval Inf Bde (Feodosiia)
  • 810th Naval Inf Bde (Simferopol)

Deployed to Crimea, elements of

Ground Forces

(GRU command)



  • 382nd Naval Inf Bn (Temryuk)
  • 727th Naval Inf Bn (Astrakhan)

Special Operations Forces

Armed forces[7]


  • 36th Coastal Def Bde (at Perevalne)
    • 1st Naval Inf Bn (Feodosiia)
    • 56th Gds Bn (Sevastopol)
    • 501st Naval Inf Bn (Kerch)
  • 406th Artillery Bde (Simferopol)
  • 37th Comms and Control Rgt (Sevastopol)


Interior troops

  • 9th Bde (Simferopol)
  • 15th Bn (Yevpatoriia)
  • 18th Spec Mot Militia Bn (Haspra)
  • 42nd Operational Rgt (Sevastopol)
  • 47th Bde (Feodosiia)

Border guards

  • Special-Purpose Border Guard Bn (Yalta)


Volunteer units[9][11]

  • 5,000 (Sevastopol)
  • 1,700 (Simferopol)

Russian military forces

  • 20,000–30,000 troops[12]


Ukrainian military forces

  • 5,000–22,000 troops[15][16]
  • 40,000 reservists, partly mobilised (outside Crimea)[17]
Casualties and losses
1 Crimean SDF trooper killed[18]
  • 2 soldiers killed[19]
  • 60–80 soldiers detained[20]
  • 9,268 military servicemen and 7,050 civilian employees defected[21][22]
2 civilian deaths (during the protests),[23][24] 1 civilian killed[25][26] (by Crimean SDF under command of a former Russian serviceman)[27][28]



On 22–23 February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with security service chiefs to discuss how to save the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. At the end of the meeting, Putin remarked that "we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia".[4] On 23 February, pro-Russian demonstrations were held in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. On 27 February, masked Russian soldiers in unmarked green military uniforms [29] took over the Supreme Council (parliament) of Crimea[30][31] and captured strategic sites across Crimea, which led to the installation of the pro-Russian Sergey Aksyonov government in Crimea. This government held the Crimean status referendum, and declared Crimea's independence on 16 March 2014.[32][33] Russia formally incorporated Crimea as two Russian federal subjects—the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol on 18 March 2014.[34][35][note 2] After the event, Russia deployed more military on the peninsula and came with threats about using nuclear weapons so that Russia could keep its new power in Crimea (or solidify the new status quo on the ground).[37]



Ukraine and many other countries condemned the annexation and consider it to be a violation of international law, as well as Russian-signed agreements safeguarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the 1991 Belavezha Accords that established the Commonwealth of Independent States, the 1975 Helsinki Accords, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and the 1997 Treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.[38][39] It led to the other members of the then G8 suspending Russia from the group[40] and then introducing a first round of sanctions against the country. The United Nations General Assembly also rejected the referendum and annexation, adopting a resolution affirming the "territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders".[41][42] The UN resolution also "underscores that the referendum [is not valid, and] cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of [Crimea]" and called upon all states and international organizations not to recognize or to imply the recognition of Russia's annexation.[42] In 2016, the UN General Assembly reaffirmed non-recognition of the annexation and condemned "the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine—the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol".[43][44]

The Russian government opposes the "annexation" label, with Putin defending the referendum as complying with the principle of self-determination of peoples.[45][46]

The conflict has many names.

In Russia, it is known as

  • accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation (Russian: Присоединение Крыма к Российской Федерации, romanized: Prisoyedineniye Kryma k Rossiyskoy Federatsii),
  • the return of Crimea (Russian: За возвращение Крыма, romanized: Za vosvrashchenie Kryma) and the reunification of Crimea.[47] In Ukraine, the names are also known as the
  • Temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia (Ukrainian: Тимчасова окупація Автономної Республіки Крим і Севастополя Росією, romanizedTymchasova okupatsiya Avtonomnoyi Respubliky Sevastopolya Rosiyeyu),
  • the illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the fall of Crimea and the invasion of Crimea.[48][49][50]
  1. There remain "some contradictions and inherent problems" regarding date on which the annexation began.[1] Ukraine claims 20 February 2014 as the date of "the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia", citing timeframe inscribed on the Russian medal "For the Return of Crimea",[2] and in 2015 the Ukrainian parliament officially designated the date as such.[3] In early March 2015, President Putin stated in a Russian film about annexation of Crimea that he ordered the operation to "restore" Crimea to Russia following an all-night emergency meeting of 22–23 February 2014,[1][4] and in 2018 Russian Foreign Minister claimed that earlier "start date" on the medal was due to "technical misunderstanding".[5]
  2. The treaty between Russia and pro-Russian Aksyonov government of Crimea, signed on that date, specified that Crimea shall be considered incorporated into Russia since the date of signing. The document entered into force on 1 April 2014,[36] but pending that was applied provisionally since very signing.[36]


  1. 1.0 1.1 McDermott, Roger N. (2016). "Brothers Disunited: Russia's use of military power in Ukraine". In Black, J.; Johns, Michael (eds.). The Return of the Cold War: Ukraine, the West and Russia. London. pp. 99–129. doi:10.4324/9781315684567-5. ISBN 9781138924093. OCLC 909325250.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. "7683rd meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Thursday, 28 April 2016, 3 p.m. New York". Mr. Prystaiko (Ukraine): ... In that regard, I have to remind the Council that the official medal that was produced by the Russian Federation for the so-called return of Crimea has the dates on it, starting with 20 February, which is the day before that agreement was brought to the attention of the Security Council by the representative of the Russian Federation. Therefore, the Russian Federation started – not just planned, but started – the annexation of Crimea the day before we reached the first agreement and while President Yanukovych was still in power.
  3. (in Ukrainian) Nasha Poklonsky promises to the 'Berkut' fighters to punish the participants of the Maidan", Segodnya (20 March 2016)
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Putin describes secret operation to seize Crimea". Yahoo News. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  5. "Russia's Orwellian 'diplomacy'". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  6. Kofman, Michael (2017). Lessons from Russia's Operations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine (PDF). Santa Monica: RAND Corporation. ISBN 9780833096173. OCLC 990544142. By March 26, the annexation was essentially complete, and Russia began returning seized military hardware to Ukraine.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Galeotti, Mark (2019). Armies of Russia's War in Ukraine. Elite 228. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781472833440.
  8. "Russian Citizen Elected Sevastopol Mayor Amid Pro-Moscow Protests in Crimea". The Moscow Times. 24 February 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Ukraine leader Turchynov warns of 'danger of separatism'". Euronews. 25 February 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  10. "Russian flags flood Crimean capital as thousands back takeover by Russia". The Straits Times. 9 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  11. "Pro-Russian rally in Crimea decries Kiev 'bandits'". The Washington Post. 25 February 2014.
  12. Pollard, Ruth (13 March 2014). "Russia closing door on Crimea as troops build up". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  13. "Crimean Tatars, pro-Russia supporters approach Crimean parliament building". UA. Interfax. 20 October 2012.
  14. "Russia puts military on high alert as Crimea protests leave one man dead". The Guardian. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  15. Ewen MacAskill, defence correspondent (28 February 2014). "Ukraine military still a formidable force despite being dwarfed by neighbour". The Guardian.
  16. "Putin Talks Tough But Cools Tensions Over Ukraine". NPR. 4 March 2014. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  17. Faiola, Anthony (17 March 2014). "Ukraine mobilizes reservists but relies on diplomacy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  18. Heather Saul; Kim Sengupta (19 March 2014). "Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian troops storm naval base as Clinton warns of 'aggression' from Putin". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  19. "Russian marine kills Ukraine navy officer in Crimea, says ministry". Reuters. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  20. Aleksander Vasovic; Gabriela Baczynska (24 March 2014). "Ukraine military to pull out from Crimea". The Sudbury Star. Reuters. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  21. "Russia employs over 16,000 former servicemen and personnel of Ukrainian armed forces". TASS. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  22. "Бывшие украинские военнослужащие вливаются в Вооруженные Силы РФ" [Former Ukrainian military join the Russian Armed Forces]. Novyy Sevastopol ( 25 April 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  23. "Two die in rallies outside Crimean parliament, says ex-head of Mejlis". Kyiv Post. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  24. JC Finley (27 February 2014). "Unrest in Crimea leaves 2 dead; government buildings seized". United Press International. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  25. Погибший крымский татарин шел в военкомат, захваченный 'дружинниками' [The deceased was a Crimean Tatar on his way to enlist when he was captured "vigilantes"]. (in Russian). 17 March 2014. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  26. Зверски убитого крымского татарина звали Решат Аметов. Трое малолетних детей осиротели. [Brutally murdered Crimean Tatar's name was Reshat Ametov. Three toddlers left orphaned.]. (in Russian). 18 March 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  27. ФСБ и крымские "потеряшки" - FSB and Crimean "losses" — RFEL, 13 June 2016
  28. "Гюндуз Мамедов, прокурор АР Крим: 'Під процесуальним керівництвом прокуратури АР Крим розкрито викрадення кримськотатарського активіста Решата Аметова'" [Gunduz Mamedov, Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea: "Under the procedural guidance of the Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the abduction of Crimean Tatar activist Reshat Ametov has been revealed"]. Prosecutor's office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol city, 10 September 2019
  29. Weaver, Courtney (2015-03-15). "Putin was ready to put nuclear weapons on alert in Crimea crisis". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2021-02-11. Retrieved 2022-01-23.
  30. Simon Shuster (10 March 2014). "Putin's Man in Crimea Is Ukraine's Worst Nightmare". Time. Retrieved 8 March 2015. Before dawn on Feb. 27, at least two dozen heavily armed men stormed the Crimean parliament building and the nearby headquarters of the regional government, bringing with them a cache of assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. A few hours later, Aksyonov walked into the parliament and, after a brief round of talks with the gunmen, began to gather a quorum of the chamber's lawmakers.
  31. De Carbonnel, Alissa (13 March 2014). "RPT-INSIGHT-How the separatists delivered Crimea to Moscow". Reuters. Retrieved 8 March 2015. Only a week after gunmen planted the Russian flag on the local parliament, Aksyonov and his allies held another vote and declared parliament was appealing to Putin to annex Crimea
  32. Ilya Somin (6 May 2014). "Russian government agency reveals fraudulent nature of the Crimean referendum results". The Washington Post.
  33. Про дострокове припинення повноважень Верховної Ради Автономної Республіки Крим [On the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea]. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (in Ukrainian). 15 March 2014.
  34. "Four years since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea". 14 March 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  35. "Putin reveals secrets of Russia's Crimea takeover plot". BBC News. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Договор между Российской Федерацией и Республикой Крым о принятии в Российскую Федерацию Республики Крым и образовании в составе Российской Федерации новых субъектов [Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on the acceptance of the Republic of Crimea into Russian Federation and education of new subjects of the Russian Federation] (in Russian). 18 March 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2016. (and a PDF copy of signed document)
  37. ""Russia Threatens Nuclear Strikes Over Crimea"". The Diplomat. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  38. Oleksandr Turchynov (20 March 2014). Декларація "Про боротьбу за звільнення України" [Declaration "On the struggle for the liberation of Ukraine"] (in Ukrainian). Parliament of Ukraine. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  39. Fred Dews (19 March 2014). "NATO Secretary-General: Russia's Annexation of Crimea Is Illegal and Illegitimate". Brookings. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  40. Bruno Waterfield; Peter Dominiczak; David Blair; The Daily Telegraph (24 March 2014). "Russia Temporarily Kicked Out of G8 Club of Rich Countries". Business Insider. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  41. "UN General Assembly adopts resolution affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity". China Central Television. 28 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  42. 42.0 42.1 "United Nations A/RES/68/262 General Assembly" (PDF). United Nations. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  43. "A/RES/71/205 – E – A/RES/71/205".
  44. "General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting – Meetings Coverage and Press Releases". United Nations.
  45. Mike Collett-White; Ronald Popeski (16 March 2014). "Crimeans vote over 90 percent to quit Ukraine for Russia". Reuters. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  46. Boris N. Mamlyuk (6 July 2015). "The Ukraine Crisis, Cold War II, and International Law". The German Law Journal. SSRN 2627417.
  47. "Минобороны России учредило медаль "За возвращение Крыма"" [Ministry of Defense of Russia established a medal "For the Return of Crimea"] (in Russian). March 25, 2014. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  48. "Указ Президента України №117/2021". Archived from the original on 24 March 2021.
  49. "Seven Years of Illegal Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea". 4 March 2021.
  50. "Bitter Crimean Anniversary – Victims of Russian Annexation".