Annexation of Crimea
Along with the end of Maidan, the situation in Crimea quickly escalated. Enthusiasts of separating the peninsula from Ukraine and incorporating it to Russia were becoming heard. According to Ukrainian experts, the actions of pro-Russian separatists were supported by Russia.
On the night of 26 February 2014, buildings of the government and Supreme Council of Crimea were seized by unidentified, armed men. Later it became clear that among the group that came from Russia was Igor Girkin who was responsible for taking the city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine, with a group of militants in April 2014.
On 27 March the airport in Simferopol was taken too. Well equipped and armed soldiers without insignia showed up on the streets of Simferopol. They were called 'little green men'. Soon they have blocked Ukrainian forces stationed in Crimea.
Vladimir Putin denied that 'little green men' were the soldiers of Russian army. Only a year after the annexation of Crimea, in an interview he said that Russian soldiers were engaged in the 'annexation of Crimea' operation from the very beginning. What's interesting, the 'Return of Crimea' medal issued on the anniversary of the annexation denotes 20 February 2014 as the start of the operation. According to Ukraine this is a proof that Russia began the Crimea operation when Viktor Yanukovych was still the president of Ukraine (he was overthrown by Ukrainian parliament on 22 February 2014).
On 16 March 2014 a so called referendum took place – according to Russian officials, most of the voters voted in favour of separating Crimea from Ukraine. Two days later Putin announced the incorporation of the peninsula to the Russian Federation. EU and USA have imposed sanctions on Russia for the annexation.