Incriminating Crimean medal or fake?
A medal apparently produced by the Russian Defence Ministry “For the Return of the Crimea” has aroused emotions not only because this is not the view most Ukrainians have of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. The medal is also reported to have a very strange beginning date – 20 February, the day that police snipers gunned down unarmed protesters in Kyiv.
The first medals were reported to have been received by Sergei Aksenov, head of the government installed after Russian soldiers seized government buildings in Simferopol on Feb 27, former Berkut police officers, the command of the Black Sea Fleet and Russian marines. The medal hearkens back to medals received "For the Liberation of the Crimea" in 1944.
Real, Aksenov’s creation or fake?
The medals were widely reported with photos, however it is not at all clear whether the medals really were produced by the Russian Defence Ministry. The reports have not been refuted by Aksenov.
There have also been a large number of reports claiming that the medals have the following dates: 20 February 2014 – 18 March 2014. The following explains why this report is so very emotive. Whether the information is true, it has now gone viral, and is widely believed to be true.
The latter date is clear: this was when Russia formally annexed the Crimea after organizing, via the puppet government headed by Sergei Aksenov, a referendum condemned by democratic countries, and “observed” by a number of representatives of far-right and neo-Stalinist parties.
It is the first date that draws attention. On February 20 snipers were used in the centre of Kyiv to gun down unarmed protesters. 80 or more people were killed in the carnage. The claims made by Russian propaganda channels that the snipers were organized by the opposition to discredit the Yanukovych regime are not just monstrous, but also clash with the facts. Snipers had been deployed already on Feb 18, but using rubber bullets. On Feb 20 the then interior minister, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, issued an order allowing the use of live ammunition. No claims were made at the time that the snipers clearly visible on numerous videos were private individuals.
As the protests in Ukraine spread during January and February, many analysts spoke of a likely deal between Vladimir Putin and Yanukovych. It was fairly widely believed that Putin was demanding a violent crackdown on EuroMaidan protesters and that he wanted Yanukovych to have blood on his hands since that would ensure that Ukraine did not sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Photographs suggesting that “Russian –trained killers” were deployed on Feb 20 can be seen in the Daily Beast article here.
In fact, of course, events turned out differently with some MPs so appalled by the bloodshed that they voted with the opposition for a resolution stopping the so-called “anti-terrorist operation”. Russia is continuing to distort the historical facts. Maidan rejected the agreement reached between Yanukovych and opposition leaders because it would have allowed Yanukovych to remain in power until December. Following the bloodshed, this was inconceivable. Yanukovych fled, together with Zakharchenko, the former Prosecutor General, Viktor Pshonka and others.
Yanukovych, Zakharchenko and Pshonka are now in hiding in Russia’s Rostov on the Don. Russia is claiming, together with Yanukovych, that he is the legitimate president and that he was ousted from power. Even in the east of Ukraine, this view is not shared by 70% of the population.