A billboard saying "Russian spring - what next? / Photo from UNIAN

One of Moscow's most urgent goals at the moment is to secure international legitimization of the occupation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula.

To this end, the Russians implement (sometimes without concealing it and, more often, through affiliated structures) a variety of the most elaborate operations, Democratic Europe reports.

For example, on February 6, 2020, the "Russian Association of Ancient Cities" (within Rostov region of the Russian Federation, Krasnodar area of the Russian Federation, and nine municipalities of the "Republic of Crimea") was set up. The occasion was the anniversary of the founding (2,500 years ago) of the Bosporus Kingdom (which had the capital of Panticapay, now the Crimean city of Kerch).

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The pretext is the preservation of the archaeological heritage of ancient times. It may seem as an ordinary event of a historical and cultural nature. However, on April 24-25, 2020, during the upcoming 6th Yalta International Economic Forum, set to be held in the annexed Crimea, they plan to set up, based on the already mentioned Russian structure an "International Association of Ancient Cities", to join which Russia has already invited Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Armenia, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia.

However, culture officials based in Athens, Rome, Sofia, and Ankara must be aware that Kremlin-controlled media around the world will be claiming that "four NATO Allies, three EU member states, and some other countries have crossed out geopolitical confrontation, Western sanctions, artificial restraints, and other barriers, and have finally officially recognized Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, the authors say, naming Russia's effort one of the many "Trojan horses" deployed against Europe.

Read alsoUN General Assembly calls on Russia to withdraw military forces from Crimea, Donbas

There are also encouraging examples of resistance to such "Trojan Horses" by the European democratic community, the article adds. In March 2019, Belgium's Ministry of Justice registered a non-governmental organization, the International Association "Tavrida" (co-founded by the Moscow-based "International Council of Russian Compatriots" and the Brussels-based "European Russian Community"). The NGO claimed its task was what seemed to be a perfectly acceptable one at first sight – to defend the interests of the Crimea population in international instances. However, shortly, the ministry canceled the NGO's registration after its lawyers concluded that, in fact, the organization's activities threaten the country's national interests (one of the arguments was that the NGO was set up in agreement with the Russian Presidential Administration and funded from the Russian state budget).

Having found itself being illegitimate, Tavrida has begun to work out options for its re-registration in Austria, Italy, or Switzerland. "Undoubtedly, it would be desirable for them to get into the official registry of any EU state, since this allows NGO representatives to gain access to the sidelines of the European Parliament and have an opportunity to meet with members of the European Commission," the article says. "It is possible that if they fail to re-register in the EU, the said NGO will be renamed but its inner essence will remain unchanged – this NGO will perform the function of the Russian Trojan Horse, which will keep waiting for a favorable moment at the gate of the European Fortress."

Currently, having seen an unfavorable judgment of the International Maritime Tribunal (Hamburg, May 25, 2019) regarding the Kerch incident, Russia decided to employ Tavrida NGO at the legal front.

The Association was instructed to convene in the spring of 2020 the so-called Public Tribunal, during which Russians intend to: convict Kyiv of allegedly breaching with its three naval boats the Russian state maritime border at the end of 2018; condemn the Ukrainian authorities' policy on Crimea, which allegedly led to a humanitarian crisis on the peninsula; deny the facts of Russia's violation of rights and freedoms of Crimean residents and the lack of access to the peninsula of international observers; deny the unprecedented militarization of the peninsula, including the deployment of nuclear tactical weapons; justify a long-standing policy of forcibly imposing Russian citizenship on the peninsula and withdrawing Ukrainian passports; justify the policy of the Russian Federation aimed at artificially altering the demographic structure of Crimea by moving to the region from mainland Russia representatives of other ethnic and social groups (primarily Volga, Urals and Siberian Tatars), as well as Russian military retirees, while forcing out of the peninsula indigenous Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian populations.

In general, the main purpose of this staged show, with the participation of bought-up and biased experts, will be to disseminate in the United Europe the belief that the annexation of Crimea was legitimate.

"Now it all depends on how adequate the reaction of a democratic Europe will be to this yet another Russian attack they are facing," the authors conclude.