By Ramesh Bhan Simferopol, Crimea, Mar 30 (UNI) Crimea, the erstwhile region of Ukraine which joined the Russian Federation on March 16, 2014, is keen to have Indian investments in diverse areas, specially Information Technology, and is ready to provide facilities to investors including tax holidays.
The Crimean Republic which, on March 16, celebrated the first anniversary of the historic Referendum through which it opted to be part of Russia, has created a Free Economic Zone to attract investments to build its economy and road and energy infrastructure which have been severely damaged during years of neglect under Ukrainian rule.
Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov told UNI here, the central City of Crimea, that Science and Technology, tourism and pharmaceuticals could be other areas where investments could be made.
''Crimea is open to Bollywood'', Mr Aksyonov said, inviting the Indian film industry to make use its beautiful locales around the Black Sea and historic structures.
There would be no strict laws and each investor would have a senior official personally monitoring the facilities for them, he said while regretting the lack of information about Crimea.
''From our side we have no problem...Ukraine had high levels of corruption. That is why investors did not prefer Crimea when it was under Ukraine,'' he said.
He said even Japan’s former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, during a recent visit, had praised happy life in Crimea.
Mr Hatoyama said that after visiting Crimea that life in the peninsula appeared happy.
''I have seen with my own eyes how everyone is living happily and peacefully,'' said Mr Hatoyama, who was in Crimea on a a three-day visit despite opposition from his government.
''Investors don’t know what is happening in Crimea.
''They think that people in Crimea live in fear. ''That is why investors are hesitant,'' he added.
Prime Minister Aksyonov rubbished apprehensions that the sanctions imposed by US and European countries would create difficulties for investors and said logistics was the main problem but otherwise there would be no difficulties for investors.
India does not support Western sanctions against Russia imposed over the Crimean issue.
The European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and several countries aspiring to European Union membership have imposed economic sanctions against Crimea and Crimean individuals. They prohibit sale, supply, transfer, or export of goods and technology in several sectors, including services directly related to tourism and infrastructure and have listed seven ports where cruise ships cannot dock. Sanctions against individuals include travel bans and asset freezes.
Since December 2014, Visa and MasterCard have stopped service in Crimea.
Mr Aksyonov said Ukraine had tried to create massive difficulties for Crimea after it joined the Russian Federation.
Ukraine blocked the main Ukrainian canal which supplied water to Crimea and has seized billions of Roubles that people now living in Crimea had deposited in Ukranian banks.
''Russia is now trying to resolve the matter amicably,'' Mr Aksyonov said. Even alternatives were found to the drinking water crisis that was sparked off by Ukraine blocking the canal that
supplied water to Crimea.
Mr Aksyonov, who was part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s delegation during his visit to India on December 10-11, 2014, for the annual bilateral Summit, said he had held meetings with Indian business delegations and explained to them the situation in Crimea and sought investments. He said many Indian businessmen had assured him that they would invest in Crimea. Mr Aksyonov being a part of President Putin’s delegation had raised hackles in some official circles in India. He had held private meetings with Indian businessmen. A spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry in India had said he was not officially aware of Mr Aksyonov being a member of President Putin's delegation. Mr Aksyonov also dismissed any threat of terrorism or the influence of Islamic State (IS) taking shape in Crimea. He said all sections of people lived in harmony in Crimea and there was absolutely no chance of terrorism taking root.
Crimean Tartars, a predominantly Muslim minority, constitute more than 12 per cent of the Crimean population which includes 54 per cent Russian and 24 per cent Ukrainians.
On 29 March 2014, an emergency meeting of the Crimean Tatars representative body, the Kurultai, voted in favour of seeking 'ethnic and territorial autonomy' for the community using 'political and legal' means.
Decisions on whether the Tatars would accept Russian passports or whether the autonomy sought would be within the Russian or Ukrainian state have been deferred.
''All people live in harmony and have freedom to worship according to their choice...All people have the right to pray according to their choice...Crimean Tartars are peaceful. Our relations with them are very friendly. Various social organisations have also said 90 per cent of the citizens felt there was no threat,'' Prime Minister Aksyonov said.
The Prime Minister also dismissed demands by some Western nations for another referendum on Crimea and said, ''We cannot go by their dictates.'' ''Holding another referendum means that you agree the earlier one was not valid. ''We cannot go by their demands,'' Mr Aksyonov said.
More than 90 per cent had voted for joining the Russian Federation in the March 16, 2014, Referendum which has been rejected by Western nations. However, a casual stroll along the streets of Simferopol, the peaceful and lively capital of Crimea, and interactions with the citizens, gives a clear indication of the extent of support for Russia.
Most people display Russian flags on their rooftops, windows and cars indicating their support for Moscow. Mr Aksyonov also accused the Western nations of trying to weaken Crimea's position internationally. Official results of the March 16, 2014, reported about 95 per cent of participating voters in Crimea and Sevastopol (another major city of Crimea), were in favour of joining Russia.
Western nations oppose Crimea's joining of Russia because of the control Moscow will have over the oil in Black Sea area.
Experts estimate that Russia's control of an area of Black Sea more than three times its land area gives it access to oil and gas reserves potentially worth trillions of dollars.
Most immediately however, analysts say, Moscow's control may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges.
http://www.uniindia.com, Mar 30 2015