The annexation of Crimea still meets with the approval of almost 90% of Russians, although Vladimir Putin’s rating has fallen by half since 2014.
‘The accession to Russia will bring peace and prosperity to Crimea while Russia will gain’. Has the Kremlin lived up to its promise? The Russians believed that there would be also change in power and the country’s economy. But the reality happened to be different.
“Introducing the pension reform, raising the retirement age was the factor that made people realize that things were going in the wrong direction. They began to feel that something was wrong, that there would be no improvement of the socio-economic situation, which has affected the public mood,” Maria Lipman, an expert at Moscow’s Carnegie Center, said.
Having invaded Crimea, Russia faced Western sanctions on its officials, banks and military complex, the stagnation of economy and the depreciation of the Russian ruble. Corruption is still pain in the neck, and the authorities are resorting to tools of political repression to more often than not. And Crimea became the seventh subsidized region in succession.
“For Putin, Crimea is just a military base. Therefore, economy is out of the question there. They are focused on reducing the cost of maintaining the military base,” Crimea’s former resorts and tourism minister Alexander Liyev believes.
Despite financial injections, any rise in living standards is hardly in evidence in Crimea. Prices have grown, housing services have become more expensive, business conditions have deteriorated. Agriculture and tourism have been hit, locals say.
“People come to Alushta, Yalta, Sudak, but small towns which were full of tourists when Crimea was Ukraine’s are now empty. […] earlier, one could rent out an apartment even for $30 [per day], now Russians pay 300 rubles,” Alexei, who is involved in travel industry, said.
But there are also over 20 killed and missing activists, almost 100 criminal cases against dissidents, several dozen political prisoners – Crimean Tatars, civil activists, people who have pro-Ukrainian views. Crimea has become the territory of unfreedom, human rights activists state.
“Belonging to the group which the Russian authorities consider extremist causes a danger that one may be arrested at any moment, then jailed or subjected to torture,” Lenur Kerimov, a representative of Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, said.
The world does not acknowledge the legality of ‘Russian Crimean’ passports; Western and even some Russian big businesses do not come to the peninsula in fear of sanctions.
Federica Mogherini, European Union’s foreign policy chief, marked the 5th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula with criticism of the Kremlin. According to her, the EU ‘remains steadfast in its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’.
“The European Union reiterates that it does not recognize and continues to condemn this violation of international law. It remains a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the territorial integrity, unity, and sovereignty of all states,” the top official said.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has recently released a similar statement. Only Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea more or less officially recognized Crimea Russian territory. For the rest of the world Crimea is still Ukraine.
Alyaksandr Papko/MS, belsat.eu