MOSCOW, April 05, /ITAR-TASS/. An expedition of the Russian Military Historical Society (RVIO) is on Saturday heading to Crimea, a former Ukrainian region that recently joined Russia.
The expedition members will travel along the Crimean Peninsula to visit places of battles that took place during the Great Patriotic War [a term used in Russia and other former Soviet republics to describe hostilities on the eastern fronts of World War II]. They will assess the condition of historic sites and war graves.
A group comprising eight people will leave Moscow in two sports utility vehicles, ride to the port of Kavkaz in the southern Russian Krasnodar Territory and then get across the Kerch Strait on a ferry without crossing the Ukrainian border checkpoints.
“Our route in Crimea: Adzhimushkay Quarry - Krymfront - Sapun-gora - Sevastopol and Cape Khersones, said expedition head Sergey Machinsky.
“The expedition lasts a week. The key task is to define sites where search expeditions will be held this year,” Machinsky, who oversees the sector of search work and military historical reenactments of the Russian Military Historical Society, told Itar-Tass.
Being guided by archive materials on battles, and cooperating with local search groups, RVIO activists will try to answer unanswered questions. The key question is: where are unidentified burials of soldiers in Crimea?
“We need to understand how may soldiers have been lifted and identified and how many are left underground. How many people should be attracted to search the territory? Which forces and means should we need, including Defense Ministry combat engineers, Emergencies Ministry personnel etc.,” Machinsky said.
The expedition will also shoot a documentary on Crimea’s military history. The film is to be shot prior to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the recapture of Sevastopol by Soviet troops, which crowned the Crimean Offensive (Battle of Crimea) on May 9, 1944.
“Prior to the celebration, we want to shoot the film, to meet with local veterans for them to tell us about their lives now,” the expedition head said.
“We want to remind the global community that Crimea has always been Russian. Talks that this land is not Russian are groundless. We also want to remind our friends from Ukraine that we’ve got common war and history,” he said.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, held a referendum on March 16 in which most of their residents decided for the area to secede from Ukraine and reunify with Russia. The admission deals with Moscow were signed on March 18.
The developments followed a coup in Ukraine in February 2014 that occurred after months of anti-government protests, often violent, which started in November 2013 when the country suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave Ukraine. Amid riots that involved radicals, new people were brought to power in Kiev. Russia and Crimea do not recognize the self-proclaimed authorities in Kiev.
Crimea became part of the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it joined Russia.
According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people, and Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.
As of late 2013, Russians accounted for 58.5 percent, Ukrainians for 24.3 percent, Crimean Tatars for 12.1 percent, Belarusians for 1.4 percent and Armenians for 1.1 percent in Crimea.