Crimea: six months within Russia

Monday, 22 September 2014 15:40

Six months ago a new page was turned in the history of Crimea when its residents voted for joining Russia at a referendum.

Russia’s new region has gone a long way over a rather short span of time — the Black Sea peninsula has introduced Russian legislation and currency and integrated into the Russian political system. But to integrate into the Russian economy, Crimea will have to work a lot. Crimeans still have problems after economic and infrastructure ties with Ukraine were sharply cut off. And Kiev intentionally deepens the gap. However, according to many witnesses, the joy of “coming back to Russia” that most of the Crimeans experience, never leaves them.

Journalists are sharing with readers some stories of people which can allow us to see the current situation in Crimea as it is.

The (Free Press portal) quotes the reporter Sergey Ilchenko as saying that “one of the feelings Crimeans have is the feeling of protection.” “This feeling of protection is a huge advantage for Crimea as compared with developments in Ukraine’s south-east. The sensation we are lucky is quite clear-cut.”

Another Crimean journalist, Alexey Lokhvitsky, says that in these six months his largest dream that has come true is “collapse of the Ukrainian colossus of power in Crimea.”

“The events that took place in the peninsula all these 23 years with Kiev’s backing and active participation of the so-called Crimea’s elite would have blown up the local society sooner or later,” Lokhvitstky said. “The referendum on independence and joining Russia saved the situation.”

“Now we go through a transitional period, so certain troubles could bother us but people are ready to have a rough time — 'anything rather than war',” he said.

Journalist Nikolay Dergachev depicts characters of some Crimeans on portal. One of them is his friend Rifat.

“Rifat is Crimean Tatar, they are regarded as oppositionists to Crimea’s accession to Russia. That isn’t so. Some of Crimean Tatars were against, some were in favor. And at that time, my friend was thinking about money he would get for his harvest. Such people, as I see it, prevail,” Dergachev said.

“Six months have passed but predictions about local apocalypse due to national disagreements failed,” he said.

The journalist made friends with a Sevastopol man Dima six months ago when people carrying Russian flags filled the streets of the city of Sevastopol (now the Russian federal city and home to the Black Sea Fleet).

“Dima was on the streets waving a Russian tricolor and shouting 'To Home, To Russia',” he said.

“Now the flag hangs above his bed and sometimes on the balcony so that everyone can see it from outside,” Dergachev said.

“There are really many people like Dima in Crimea,” the journalist said. “They learn the Russian anthem, put Russian flags on their balconies and feel proud of Russia. It has become a norm over these six months.”

Crimeans’ pensions have doubled although prices have increased, too.

“My pension has doubled,” the web magazine quotes an elderly resident of the Crimea’s capital Simferopol.

“Now I have no headache about where to find a job and to earn some more money in order to make ends meet,” Nikolay Sergeyevich says. “My son is a police officer and his wealth status has considerably improved. It is true that the prices have grown but there is nothing frightening in it as they went up 30% while incomes doubled.”

Over the past six months there have been a great deal of changes in Crimea. The Northern Crimean Canal has dried up as Ukraine shut it off. So no more rice grows in the peninsula. Practically empty trains arrive from Ukraine very seldom. At the same time, flights from Russia have increased eight-fold and long queues of vehicles are waiting on the both sides at the Kerch ferry line.

Crimea’s authorities confirmed reports about shortages of certain goods. Crimea’s Economic Development Minister Svetlana Verba said that the shortage “stems from the idle time transport spends on the republic’s northern borders.”

She said that vehicles lined for about ten kilometres to cross the border from Ukraine and had to stay in these queues for two days. Although, neither a sharp increase in prices nor lack of certain products is registered at the moment, the minister said.

In August, the Russian government adopted a federal program for social and economic development of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol until 2020, with planned financing about 700 billion rubles ($18.19 billion). The program aims to integrate the economy of the Crimean Federal District into Russia’s economic space, lift restrictions for transport infrastructure, improve energy supplies and develop the social sphere.

“Crimea’s main problem is absence of communications with Russia,” Alexey Skolin, the chair of the Higher School of Economics’ regional economy and economic geography department, told ITAR-TASS. “Water and energy supply systems, automobile roads, railways should be created and the problem of crossing the Kerch Strait is on the table, too. These factors hamper normal economic development and yield losses — though temporarily so far.”

Skopin said that principled decisions on these problems and financing the peninsula were positive changes.

“The shift is evident but it will take at least two or three years to set up infrastructure linking up Crimea with other regions of Russia,” he said. “So do not expect significant economic changes in the near future. However, the potential has been created and in three years’ time Crimea will be able to function as a full-fledged region of Russia."

MOSCOW, September 19. /ITAR-TASS/.

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