«International association of friends of Crimea» was created by Russian authorities in occupied Crimea in 2017, with a set of tasks – to legalize illegal «referendum» and further Russian attempt to annex Crimea; to cancel Western sanctions against Russia and to remove «Crimean issue» from the world agenda.
Marginalized and dubious politicians and businessmen from Europe and Asia were drawn into the Association. Yearly forums of the Association were held in Crimea. Besides that, Russia involved participants into other events – from «days of culture» of national-cultural associations of Crimea controlled by Russian authorities to Yalta international economic forum.
Russians call these events «people’s diplomacy». This «diplomacy» is supervised by Georgii Muradov, «Deputy Head of Crimea», and permanent representative of the «Republic of Crimea» under the President of the Russian Federation.
After the Russian full scale invasion, Muradov did not stop his activities. As it became difficult to gather friends on the occupied territory of Crimea, he transferred many events of the Association into online format.
The Association called upon «USA and other NATO countries to initiate constructive dialogue with Russia about mutual security» on the 25th of February, 2022, on the second day of the Russian aggression when Russian rockets fell on Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Online conference of the Association was held on June 21, 2022. It reported that there were participants from Serbia, Israel, China, Poland, Italy, Japan, Slovakia, USA, Austria, Armenia, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Norway, Tunis, Poland and other countries.
The VII International conference «Crimea in the current international environment» was held on November 9, 2022 in Simferopol. There were previous members of the Association Aik Babukhanjan from Armenia [Айк Бабуханян], Ján Čarnogurský, ex-Prime Minister of Slovakia in 1991-92, Vanya Dobreva from Bulgaria and US citizen Regis Tremblay, new «face» of the Association.
Forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia» was conducted on November 15, 2002 not in Crimea but in Moscow, in the press center of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The new place of the forum was explained by «broken transport logistics and difficult political situation». Russian authorities told that there were «50 delegates from 40 countries, including Slovakia, Cyprus, Norway, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy as well as countries of Africa and Middle East».
However, it is difficult to check this information about «50 foreign delegates» as there were no photo or video reports about the forum. The list of participants was not published. The final press conference of the Forum was attended by Muradov, Ján Čarnogurský, Hendrik Weber from Norway, German video blogger Alina Lipp, Gabriel Anicet Kotchofa, ex-Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the Russian Federation.
The lack of information can be explained by the Russians’ attempt to secure the safety of their «foreign friends». For example, in 2020 Muradov publicly complained to Dmitrii Kiselev, General Director of MIA «Russia Today» about the Center for Journalist Investigations. He said that the CJI started «aggressive information campaign» «to discredit» foreign friends and partners of Crimea (International Association of the friends of Crimea). As he added, foreign partners of Crimea were deeply concerned about the CJI’s campaign. After the Russian full scale invasion into Ukraine, the participation of the Association members in Russian propagandist events makes them look very toxic in their countries. That is why Russian authorities try not to disclose their involvement.
Muradov complained in Cairo on January 31, 2023: «Activity of this Association became more difficult in some European countries, in particular, in Baltic states and Poland. There are repressions not only against friends of Crimea, but against all friends of Russia, Russians, including journalists».
«Friends of Crimea» ask for anonymity and the Russian Federation satisfies their requests.
The Forum of anonymous lovers of the Russian Crimea adopted the resolution about fighting «anti-Russian racism».
Besides that, Muradov has been active in Armenia. In April 2022, he participated in the event called «Days of Crimea in Armenia».
As a representative of the Russian Federation, he participated in the session of the UN Human Rights Council on October 4, 2022. He made the presentation about «anti-Russism as the new form of racism which acquires dangerous forms in a number of European countries, in particular, in Baltic countries».
Presentation of Muradov’s book «Chronicles of people’s diplomacy of Crimea» was conducted in February 2023 in Simferopol. It looked like an overview of Muradov’s work. The President of the Russian Federation awarded Muradov with the Alexander Nevsky Order for his achievements as the «head of people’s diplomacy» on January 10, 2023.