Moscow-backed authorities in Crimea's Sevastopol have ordered schools to gather about 10,000 children to celebrate the so-called “Crimean spring” on February 22.
The term is used by Kremlin supporters to refer to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian Peninsula, which was finalized in March 2014. Clashes among Crimean civilians began on February 21.
Local news reports quoted teachers as saying they suspect the call is an attempt by the de facto authorities to prevent protests by other pro-Russian groups that are in opposition to the Kremlin-imposed government. Crimea has a two-day holiday on February 22-23 to mark Defender of the Fatherland Day.
According to ForPost, a local news site, one teacher said: "They wanted to have children there so that nobody else does anything in the center of Sevastopol at that time. They say there have been a lot of applications for various protests.”
Order No. 66, dated February 15, came from Sevastopol’s Kremlin-backed Education Department Director Mikhail Rodikov. The document lists Sevastopol’s educational institutions, how many students each establishment must send to the celebrations, and the times children must be present on the city’s main Nakhimov Square. The document calls for about 10,000 students to take part from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The document says student participation is mandatory “in order for the younger generation to develop civil-patriotic qualities, foster a sense of respect and [understanding of the] historical heritage of their native city, and preserve the traditions of valiant service to the fatherland.”
Yevgeny Dubrovnik, the de facto deputy governor of Sevastopol, originally said that children’s participation at the event would be important. However, when teachers and parents began to file complaints to the education authorities, Dubrovnik backtracked, saying that the mandatory participation of children in the celebrations was his subordinate's "uncoordinated" idea. According to Dubrovnik, children will participate in the celebration, but no one will force them.
“Children will take part in exhibitions and concerts. [They] will show what they have done in two years of our Sevastopol spring, how they live,” he said. “The day, February 22, is dedicated to, among other things, our children’s creativity.”