Billboard says "Russian Spring... what next?" Photo from UNIAN

In 2014, the Ukrainian Armed Forces lacked time to thoroughly prepare a solid military response to Russia's act of aggression as regards Crimea, says Mykhailo Kutsyn who was Chief of the General Staff from February to July 2014

In the winter of 2014, Ukraine Army was planning a covert operation to defend the peninsula and thwart the annexation attempt, but it lacked time to prepare it, he said in a comment for Krym.Realii.

"That [the airborne assault operation] was being planned, but it hasn't been prepared; it wasn't ready. There were no planes in the air. And in order to deploy them, there was still a lot of work to be done. If we had sent them the way they wanted, then we would have had Lugansk much earlier. It still required time to prepare. And when there was time to deploy them, all airfields had already been occupied," he explained.

Read alsoUkrainian police respond to detention of 120 Crimean Tatars in occupied CrimeaEarlier in an interview with "Krym.Realii," the then-acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said an airborne assault operation in Crimea on March 8, 2014 would be unfeasible."

Defense of Crimea in 2014

In the winter of 2014, the Ukrainian army was preparing a secret operation to thwart the annexation of Crimea by Russia and defend the peninsula. The most combat-ready airborne units were set to be deployed to Crimea.

It is noted that when preparations started, a reconnaissance company of the 25th Airborne Brigade had already been deployed in Crimea for scheduled military exercises. They also planned to transfer scouts from Kirovograd special-purpose regiment and the 79th Airmobile Brigade from Mykolaiv.

Former Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Serhiy Kryvonos in 2014 headed the headquarters of the Airborne Forces. In a commentary to reporters, he said that the operation was indeed being prepared in February and scheduled to launch in early March. According to Kryvonos, the General Staff of the Armed Forces developed a three-stage plan for the liberation of the peninsula.

The situation changed when part of the 36th Brigade surrendered to the Russians without resistance. The paratroopers were never given the order to take action.

Crimea occupation: Background

In February 2014, armed men without insignia seized the building of Crimea's parliament, the Council of Ministers, as well as the Simferopol Airport, the Kerch ferry crossing, and other strategic facilities, as well as blocked Ukrainian troops at their bases.

Russian authorities initially refused to acknowledge that the armed men in question were in fact Russian soldiers on active duty. Eventually, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that they had in fact been Russian military servicemen.

On March 16, 2014, a sham "referendum" was held, mostly unrecognized by the international community, on the status of the peninsula, as a result of which Russia went on for the accession of the peninsula. Neither Ukraine, nor the European Union, nor the United States recognized the results of the vote. On March 18, Putin declared that Crimea was officially part of Russia.

International organizations recognized the occupation and annexation attempt in Crimea as illegal and condemned Russia's actions.

Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Russia and the occupied Crimea.

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine formally announced February 20, 2014, the date marking the start of the temporary occupation of Crimea and the naval base city of Sevastopol by Russia.