"Stopterror" activists used these and other open sources to gather evidence: in spring of 2014 the balaclavas of the "little green men" were hiding Russian military, Censor.NET report citing Krym.SOS.
Below are 10 portraits of those who had seized Crimea. These 10 persons are random soldiers from "Stopterror" list, but together they reveal the joint image of the invader.
It's time to take balaclavas off.
During Crimea annexation, Andrey Legkov was a marine of the Russian army.
He became a contract soldier in 2010. Before that, after serving his regular term in the army, he returned to his home village in the Krasnodar Kray. But he didn't like it at the civvy street and came back to the military draft office after turning 25.
Just like many other Russian soldiers who had been in Crimea, Legkov posted pretty much nothing on his social media pages in spring 2014. This is due to the ban for disclosure of information related to the peninsula annexation. Such banned information includes photos, geographic location, interviews, printed and written evidence in media and online. The soldiers were also forbidden to inform their relatives about their location.
That's why the majority of proofs about Crimea annexation participation were uploaded by Russian soldiers after returning to their home stations.
Legkov uploaded some as well. Several of his photos had Crimean geotags.
When Crimea annexation started, Kursk-born Artem Ovchinnikov was 20 and serving in the 106th Tula division. He left for Crimea within this division.
From his social media pages one could assume that in his spare time and when on service Artem pays much attention to his physical shape and attends a gym. He is also a fan of fishing and taking photographs. It looks like he's a romantic person, as much as one can be a romantic person in the Russian army.
Marine unit in which Georgiy Nalbatov served had been located in Temryuk district of Russia before the Crimean occupation. It takes two and a half hours to get from there to Kerch, Crimea. But it took much less time for the marines to get to the Ukrainian land, for they were traveling by military vehicles.
Using the fact that Russian Black Sea Navy agreement allowed Russia allocating 25,000 of its military in Crimea, and the contingent comprised only 16,000 at the moment of the invasion, the Kremlin redeployed more of its units that used to dislocate in Temryuk and other close districts before the conflict.
This is how Nalbatov got to Crimea.
Nalbatov's pages in social media boast numerous images from Crimean 'voyage' - Georgiy loved to take pictures and indicate his geographical position at the time.
After resigning from the Russian Army, Nalbatov decided to remain in the army and continued to serve as a contract soldier.
Crimean occupation was supported not only with Russian regular troops, but also with units of Russian Cossacks. Terek Cossacks were massively crossing the Ukrainian-Russian border with an alleged purpose to support Crimean Cossack organizations, located in Crimea at that time.
The units were arriving from Russia's Krasnodar Kray through Kerch ferry line, first to support mass gatherings, and later to create illegal armed gangs of 'Crimean self-defense'.
These units were mostly formed of disguised career officers of the army, 'weekend soldiers,' and Cossacks with combat experience.
Groups of Terek and Kuban Cossacks were deployed across the entire peninsula. Together with Berkut soldiers [special forces - ed.] they took control over checkpoints at all thruways and at the entrance to Crimea (Chonhar, Turetskyi Val), as well as over railway stations and administrative buildings.
Rankers of the Cossack units did not conceal the fact that they had come from the Russian Federation. However, not all of them were aware of the purpose of their being at the peninsula.
Cossacks were arriving to the peninsula between February and late March, 2014. 20-year-old Nevynnomyssk resident Alexey Goncharov, a Terek Cossack, came with one of the groups.
It is known that Goncharov served his compulsory military service in one of the special Cossack military units of Russia. After the service he continued as a soldier of the Terek Cossack Army, which is listed in the state registry of Cossack units in Russia.
Photos posted by Alexey Goncharov are evidence of his and Terek Cossacks' presence in Ukraine during the occupation of the Crimean peninsula.
After the annexation operation ended, Alexey Goncharov was seen on the territory of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" within a terrorist unit.
Military unit No. 90600 in Roshchinskiy town in Russia has always been an elite service unit. Its servicemen participated in conflicts in other countries, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Soldiers were severely trained in various conditions. Two months before the Crimea events, the number of such drills increased significantly.
Later, it became clear why - the military were sent to Crimea.
Among them was Samara resident Farit Vakhitov.
Farit began his service in 2012 in a reconnaissance battalion. After his service period ended, he signed a contract in Roshchinskiy.
Just like many other soldiers who were sent to Crimea, Vakhitov posted no photos during a month while participating in the "Russian spring." However, just like his comrades, he posted enough after returning home after the operation.
Izhevsk resident Yevgeniy Stolyarenko came to Crimea by a Russian navy ship. He was one of those Russian military who didn't know what was going on, what awaited them, and couldn't contact their relatives.
Stolyarenko was drafted for compulsory military service in 2013 and was deployed to marines. Several months before his demobilization Yevgeniy's unit was redeployed to Crimea.
Later, Russian media reported that Russian government bet on patriotism and hoped soldiers would not disclose information about the special operation prematurely. However, it was much less posh. Soldiers were simply deprived of their cell phones.
Stolyarenko later gave interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda, in which he said: "When they announced we were being sent to Crimea, we didn't know what to expect. We were without phone connection for two weeks then due to the fact there were only Ukrainian providers of cell connection in Crimea at that time. Fancy our parents' worries!"
Soon after participation in Crimea occupation, Yevgeniy Stolyarenko was demobilized and returned home. He didn't want to serve as a contract soldier any longer.
One of the brigades that participated in Crimea annexation was the 31st separate guards air assault brigade (military unit 73612).
Between 1999 and 2001 the unit participated in 'counterterrorist' operation in Northern Caucasus. Its soldiers also took part in numerous drills and peacekeeping efforts.
Probably that was the reason why the Kremlin decided to use their experience in Ukraine.
One of those who left for Crimea with this unit was Saratov resident Yevgeniy Zakharov.
Zakharov signed a contract in 2013. Before that, he served his compulsory term in the army with paratroopers. He participated in numerous drills with his military unit.
In February 2014, part of the personnel of the military unit 73612 was redeployed to Novorossiysk, and then to Ukraine. Soldiers of the 31st brigade were transformed into "little green men" who, with no insignia and covered by balaclavas, were blocking and assaulting Ukrainian military units and administrative buildings. They took pictures against various military facilities, with local residents and comrades. Sometimes they even enjoyed Ukrainian symbols at the backdrop.
20-year-old Tatarstan native Ildar Akhmetgaliev was serving his compulsory military term in the 23rd guards motorized rifle brigade in the Samara region when it was sent to seize Crimea in 2014.
During his service, Akhmetgaliev served to be promoted to junior sergeant and awarded a medal "For return of Crimea."
Russian military Andrey Gustomesov participated in Crimea annexation as part of the 74th separate motorized rifle brigade. He was junior sergeant and 20.
The military unit 21005 personnel were deployed by the Kremlin in special operations at various times, which include the so-called anti-terrorist operation in Northern Caucasus and Grozny offensive.
In the spring of 2014 the brigade was sent to Crimea. They played the roles of "little green men" and blocked military units on the peninsula and sabotaged state authorities.
Gustomesov posted several pictures on his page in social media, which prove his participation in the events. However, the most profound proof was his medal "For return of Crimea," which he also boasted in social media.
After demobilization in fall 2014, Gustomesov deleted all images and posts from his social media accounts related to his military service. It might be explained with the fact that some informational websites started to post investigations based on open sources, and Gustomesov was featured in one of them. It turned out that being a 'hero' in Crimea and later a 'hero' of one of those materials was not the best idea.
The 15th separate guards motorized rifle brigade of the peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation was formed in 2005. It is located 35 km from Samara and has performed tasks in conflict zones of North Ossetia, Transnistria and Abkhazia.
In 2014 its units were seen in Crimea.
One of its contract soldiers, who were sent to 'liberate Crimea', was a 28-year-old Alexey Matorin.
After his demobilization from compulsory military service, Matorin tried a job of a constructor, but failed. So he decided to return to the army and signed a contract with the abovementioned unit.
In March 2015, the units of the 15th peacekeeping brigade were located in a military camp in the Voronezh region of Russia. The fact is confirmed by numerous images posted by Alexander and supported by geotags.
After posting for the last time on his page on March 21, 2014, Matorin temporarily halted his social media activities.
His next photos were uploaded on April 27, 2014 and evidenced his participation in Crimea occupation.
In 37 days, Alexey Matorin managed to visit Ukraine, participate in the operation of Crimea seizure, and receive an award from the Russian government.
After the events he continued service in the 15th brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.