Three years later, Crimea abandoned by both Ukraine and Russia

Analysis & Opinion, Crimea

Article by: Olena Makarenko

Three years after the illegal annexation of Crimea, the topic about the peninsula’s status turned into a political ping-pong. Politicians at different levels are arguing which step should be taken next, whether sanctions against Russia should be lifted, and whether Crimea should be “traded” in exchange for Russia leaving Donbas alone. In reality the peninsula is abandoned both by Russia and Ukraine. And people living there are suffering the most, no matter whether they supported Russia or not.

The start of the occupation was accompanied by Russian promises and celebrations in Crimea and across the whole Russia, celebrating the “return of the peninsula back home.” However, after three years Crimeans lost what they had before but haven’t become full-fledged Russians. One thing they did receive in full, though, is a world of illusions promoted by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.

However, over these three years, the Ukrainian government hasn’t done its best to turn Crimea back. The Ukrainian society still hasn’t seen a coherent strategy to de-occupy the peninsula. Let’s see where Crimea stands after these 3 years.

Russia’s broken promises

The prosperous Crimean reality exists only in statements of the so-called authorities of Crimea and Russian propaganda media. Photo: politolog.net

Crimeans will receive high salaries. Despite the expectations of Crimean residents who believed in the ideas of the “Russian world,” ordinary citizens live in poverty. Average wages there are lower than the Russian average. According to official Russian statistics, they amount to RUB 26,000 ($450) against RUB 36,000 ($623) across the whole of Russia. However, experts say that official statistics are inflated. Crimea Statistics place the average wages at $328. The lowest wages are in services sector – around RUB 9,000 ($155). An average school teacher receives RUB 13,000 ($225). Junior medical staff receives RUB 20,000 ($346) and a doctor – up to RUB 40,000 ($692).

According to Crimea Statistics, in 2016 living wages there amounted to RUB 9,500 ($164) and RUB 10,000 ($181) for the population able to work. But this index doesn’t take into account living expenses. The “Doner index” of the Open Data Day analytical organization ranked all the salaries of Russian regions against living expenses and found that the average salary is most often enough to cover food and rent.

Military men and civil servants receive the highest wages – around RUB 80,000 ($1385). The civil servants usually come from Russia and often are switched. The military sector was a priority for Russia since the beginning of the occupation.

Read also: Two years after Russia’s takeover, no Crimean spring

Crimea will be full of tourists. Tourism is considered to be the main source of economic growth in Russia’s strategy on the social and economic development of Crimea by 2030 year. In 2016, Russian media informed that Crimea expected a record number of tourists last summer. The so-called Crimean authorities boasted that a record 5 million tourists visited the peninsula in the summer of 2016. However, this number first of all isn’t a record – Crimea received its largest amount of tourists, 6 million, in 2012, when the European Football Championship was conducted in Ukraine. Second, according to the experts, the number voiced over by the collaborative authorities do not correspond to reality.

“After the annexation in 2014 the number of tourists fell by 2.5 mn – quite a large amount, as the largest share of tourists were Ukrainians. In 2015, Crimea hosted 1.5 mn tourists, from which about 200,000 Ukrainian citizens and 1.3 mn were citizens of the Russian Federation, the country which occupied our peninsula. In 2016, the level of 1.5 mn was maintained,” said Oleksandr Liyev, Head of the Association of Hospitality Industry of Ukraine. According to him, his organization is the only one which counts the tourists coming to Crimea, taking into account the official amounts of passenger traffic and insider data from 100 travels destinations in Crimea.

Although the international sanctions against Russia do not concern the tourist industry directly, it does bear the consequences because of the sanctions in other areas – banking, transport, real estate etc.

Billions will be invested in Crimea. Russia does invest billions of rubles in Crimea but even now it can’t reach Ukraine’s level of investments before the occupation. In 2013, UAH 15.5 bn ($1.9 bn at the exchange rate of that time) was invested in Crimea. According to RFE/RL’s Crimean Service, after the occupation the amount of investments was RUB 26.5 bn ($697 at the exchange rate of that time). In 2015 the amount was higher RUB 47.6 bn ($784 mn, according to that time currency rate), but still much lower than the level of Ukrainian investments before.

In 2013, the largest share of money was invested into the industry sector (50.1%) and construction (28%). Under the occupation, the investment index dropped drastically. The nature of investments has also changed. Before the illegal annexation the majority of them were private (61.4%). Now the share of private investments to Crimea is only 22.7%.

The number of international investments has also reduced dramatically:

In 2013 it amounted to $176 mn.

In 2014 – $26.2 mn.

In 2015 – $31 mn.

The results of 2016 have not been received yet. Only the so-called Prime Minister of Crimea Sergey Aksenov boosted that $2.5 bn were invested in Crimea last year. However, according to Crimean Statistics, after 9 months of 2016 Crimea received only $324 mn.

Crimea will be food and energy independent. Before the occupation, Crimea consumed 900-1200 MW of electricity. 150-200 out of them were generated in Crimea, the rest was received from Ukraine. In 2015, Ukraine started a product and energy blockade of Crimea. It resulted in turning an activist protest into the state policy.

Despite the fact that the peninsula experiences power shortages, Russian media continue to repeat that “the blockade even helped Crimea to become energy and products independent.” The occupying authorities informe that the peninsula receives 900 MW, which should be sufficient to provide Crimea with electricity, especially now when production facilities and the majority of health resorts are not working. However, multiple chaotic power outages of ordinary house estates have become a rule, meaning that the actual power availability is way below the declared level. Ordinary citizens are the primary victims of power outages. The military units and civil servants are probably the last ones that will suffer, but the amount of their energy consumption is not something which will be announced publicly in Crimea.

Read also: Crimea’s economy. When Russia’s words and figures don’t meet

Talking about food independence, propaganda slogans are mixed with the real problems which can not be hidden. For example, recently Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia stated that food self-sufficiency of the annexed Crimea is insufficient. He added that the agro-industrial complex of the south of neighboring Russia makes a significant contribution to ensuring the country’s food security.

Despite the blockade, some Ukrainian products can be found in Crimea. Despite there being no direct delivery of products to Crimea, suppliers still find ways to trade. Experts say that it’s impossible to monitor how many products are coming to Crimea from Ukraine and that the Ukrainian government has no idea of the numbers.

The construction project of the century. Since the very beginning of the occupation, Russian authorities promised to build the Kerch bridge over the Azov Sea which would connect Crimea to Russia. However, the deadlines were postponed several times. In spring 2016, Russian authorities acknowledged that the construction will be impossible to complete until 2019. In September 2016, it was stopped to to the lack of finances. The same month, the US Treasury Department expanded the sanctions against individuals and legal entities related to the occupation of Crimea and activities in the illegally annexed peninsula. About 100 Russian companies became targets of the sectoral sanctions. Among them there were companies related to the construction.

The competition for construction of the railway approach to the bridge was announced in 2016. Three attempts at it failed because of the lack of competitors – no one wanted to end up in the sanctions list. In the end, the Russian government hired a company with connections to Vladimir Putin.

Corruption in Russia is another reason for the slow progress of the construction.

International delegations. Inviting international delegations is one of the ways with which Russia tries to create the visibility of the international recognition of Crimea. However, these delegations are mostly unofficial and represent far-right forces. Among the official delegations which came to Crimea there were only representatives of Eritrea, Nicaragua and Laos.

Ukraine’s side of the coin

Understanding that Ukraine fights not only for the territory, but for the people who live there should be a foundation for the strategy. Photo: ukr.media

After 3 years of Crimean occupation. Ukraine still does not have a clear vision on how it is going to get the peninsula back.

Crimea for Donbas. In the end of 2016, a new idea appeared in the information field of Ukraine and abroad – to trade Crimea for Donbas. One of the most famous trendsetters was the the publication of the Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk in the Wall Street Journal called “Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia.” In it Pinchuk gave pieces of advice about what Ukraine should do, taking into account the new global trends, especially those in US policy. One of them was related to Crimea: “Crimea is Ukraine, but this position should not be an obstacle on the way of returning Donbas.”

Pinchuk is associated with the Ukraine’s ex-president Leonid Kuchma who was under control of Kremlin during his presidency. Now Kuchma is the member of the trilateral contact group on settling the situation in Donbas. Pinchuk himself has business interests in Russia, so his interest in “painful compromises” appears to be quite natural.

Read more: Viktor Pinchuk wants Ukraine to capitulate to Russia

Ukrainian society perceived the idea of trading Crimea for Donbas as corresponding to Russian interests.

Officially the idea was perceived negatively also by the Ukrainian government. However, it have no clear suggestions of what to do.

Read also: Why Pinchuk’s plan would be a disaster for Ukraine and the West
“Capitulation is not a compromise.” Ukrainians react to oligarch’s plan in WSJ

The Ukrainian strategy. Ukrainian politicians claim that a strategy on the de-occupation of Crimea does exist. For instance, an MP from the Narodniy Front party voiced over the key points of this strategy in a political TV show:

“We do not divide Crimea and Donbas, both territories are occupied by the Russian aggressor. By the moment of withdrawing of the troops of the Russian Federation outside Ukraine there can’t be any plans of peaceful settlement,” said the MP.

He made another point about Russia compensating Ukraine for the damage caused by the aggression in Crimea and Donbas.

However, the Ukrainian government constantly falls under criticism for voicing over slogans and having no real strategy.

According to Refat Chubarov, the head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars, Ukraine know only the direction of action, but has no strategy:

“We are already late with this strategy. Now we have to as soon as possible to come up with a single formula for the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.”

Oleksandra Matviychuk, an activist and the coordinator of the Euromaidan SOS initiative, is confident that understanding that Ukraine fights not only for the territory, but for the people who live there should be a foundation for the strategy.

“Ending discriminatory policies towards people [living in occupied Crimea] should be one of the most important components of this strategy. A vivid example of these policies is the government’s decree ‘On the restriction of the supply of certain goods (works, services) from temporarily occupied territory to another territory of Ukraine and/or other territory of Ukraine to temporarily occupied territory,” said the activist.

She clarified that because of this decree, people who come to Ukraine from Crimea can’t take lots of their personal belongings with them. However, another decree lets Ukrainian oligarchs to continue trading with Crimea.

The international sanctions on people and companies related to the Crimean occupation work and now even Russian authorities can’t properly hide their losses because of them. Maintaining the sanctions will prevent Russian aggression from spreading to other parts of the world, as it restricts Russia from continuing its expensive military policy. However, the question of returning the peninsula and its reintegration into Ukraine is mostly Ukraine’s responsibility. Without a Ukrainian strategy, the process of de-occupation might be postponed for a much longer period than the construction of the Kerch bridge by Russia.

Read more: Rest assured, Marine Le Pen, sanctions against Russia work


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Edited by: Alya Shandra

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  • Middle Eastern Christian

    We will see when the Kerch bridge becomes operational and Crimea will be no longer isolated. Crimeans know this, also they know that is Ukraine who diverted the water supply rivers and blocked them to starve Crimea of water and they did, they know that Ukraine blew up the electricity transmission lines supplying Crimea and they left the Crimeans in the dark and bitter cold, and they know also that Russia has built an Electrical supply underwater cables linking Crimea to Russia’s mainland and they saved the Crimeans, tte whole world knows this, also we know that Ukraine does not care about the Crimeans. And by the way I am not a Russian troll, I am an American Citizen from middle eastern decent, I studied in Odessa and live in the US, and I know the difference, I just was in Odessa and my God what this Ukrainian regime has done to Ukraine,!!! Huge difference from my 2012 visit, it used to be a beautiful country, no more, unfortunately.

    • Vasyl P.

      If it was Ukraine that cut off Crimea’s water and power, then it showed that Ukraine was supporting Crimea well before russia intervened. If occupied crimea wants to be part of russia, then russia, not Ukraine, should take care of it, but that’s not happening. Occupied crimea is polluted now, trash roams the beaches, dead fish wash up forcing tourists to clean it up themselves, Simferopol train stations are ghost towns compared to how they were, and now russians rather go to Turkey for a Black Sea vacation than to occupied crimea, and the russians who do go here are cheap and spend less than what an average Ukrainian spent. Go to russia, make sure you’re farther than 200km from any European country, and outside the Moscow ring, and see how truly beautiful russia is. Rundown buildings, terrible roads, drug abuse, etc. At least Ukraine’s getting out of that mess now.

      • Middle Eastern Christian

        The discussion should not become a debate of beliefs or propaganda for political reasons, I am stating facts, Ukraine is blockading Crimea, I think everyone agrees, and now Donbass, blockading 5 million people you want to claim your citizens, and then you ask why they abandon Ukraine for Russia? I have no reason to side with anyone. And by the way what you said about how bad it is in crimea runs contrary to what Ukranians in Ukraine are saying, still 6 million Ukranians live and work in Russia proper and send money home to Ukraine. Can you guess why is that? So in Russia still much better after all, just think logically

        • Vasyl P.

          Russia had no authority to be involved in Crimea and Donbass. Ukraine still claims them, and is starving their fake and illegitimate governments. You wouldn’t support your enemies during wartime would you? London-based provisional governments of European countries during WWII/Cold War did similar antics, and that turned out well for most. Russia’s hardly any better, living standards deteriorated the past three years, on top of post-soviet issues that still never been solved. Which is why I say go 200km away from Europe, and you’ll see how Russia really is. There’s less investment in those areas, costs of resources is higher, higher crime rates and other fishy behavior. I can go on for days about conditions in Siberia that I personally witnessed (as many as 1 of 4 in Irkutsk hooked on heroin, deserted buildings, washed out roads, I can go on). Ukraine hasn’t exactly been very kind to its lands in the past but it’s much easier to pressure Ukraine than it is to pressure Russia. Meanwhile, as Ukraine turns closer to Europe, Russia becomes more dictatorial even as we speak. If that’s the kind of life you want to live, then keep supporting it, because that is Russia.

          “And by the way what you said about how bad it is in crimea runs contrary to what Ukranians in Ukraine are saying”

          My father’s Ukrainian. I have family in Ukraine. I’ve been there many times since Maidan and I’ve never heard this before.

          • Andrew Chmile

            “Vasyl P.” — Ruski MOLE.

            — A “TRUMP SUPPORTER” :)))

            HE IS A RUSKI **MOLE** & “moderator” of a RUSKI MOLE-TROLL SITE — with SPUTNIK & VARIOUS OTHER RUSKI COMMIE ARTICLES @ VARIOUS “DISQUS CHANNELS” like:

            __UKRAINE TODAY USA__

            __THE PRESIDENT TRUMP CHANNEL__

            __IMPERIAL NEWS NETWORK__ etc.. BS “Disqus Channels”

            (FREE!! CHEAP!!!)

            “Vasyl P.” CLAIMS ON HIS DISQUS PAGE:
            https://disqus.com/by/Vapetrenko/
            ———————-
            Right-wing freedom fighter; pro-democracy, anti-corruption, anti-feminazis, anti-fascist, Russian, Ukrainian, American

            ————————–

            Has claimed in the past to be Ukrainian & American, IS NEITHER!!

            SPOKE RUSKI AT ME — Thinking I would or should understand his ugly DOG BARK & GROWL LANGUAGE.

            “Larissa” a “MODERATOR” MOLE/TROLL & the OTHER SCUM — will ALL tell you how “Larissa” — “LOST HER ONLY CHILD IN DONBAS!!!!”

            A-A-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-E-E-E-eeeeeee!!!!! :)

            Another RUSKI MOLE SKANK — whined about being “RAPED”!!! as per her Disqus home page no less!!!! :)) — she deleted it after I posted & laughed at her DUM RUSKI @SS!!! :)

          • Vasyl P.

            Give it up Andrew, no one cares for Nazzi talk :)

          • Andrew Chmile

            People care LESS for Russo-mongolian MOLE “cleverness” …

            Is “Larissa” still upset over “loosing her only child in Donbas” ?? :))))
            You STILL constantly REPEATING that BS? 😉
            She shouldn’t have had an abortion then, after balling half the Ruski Trolls in St. Petersberg! :)))
            Cheap Ruski ‘ho! :))

            Still “all that warm, fuzzy chatter” ??? 😉

            PEOPLE KNOW!!! 😉
            Scraje. Slavko, etc…. etc.. ALL KNOW! :)

            You Trolls even tried that RUSKI TRADITION with Euro. Press on me —
            THE LYING DONOS!! THE FAMOUS “RUSKI STUKACH THING” :)))

            Waste of time eh??
            TRY AGAIN!!! 😉
            Russo-mongolian SCUM!!!

            ” P’tfu!!” — I SPIT ON YOU RUSKI SCUM!!

            http://tinyurl.com/h3gmpem

          • Vasyl P.

            You are demonizing yourself more than you are me :)

          • Andrew Chmile

            Wrong again — erzatz “Ukrainian” …. (another LIE!)

            “Alex George” MOLE can’t help you out either … :)

            HE **LIED** TOO MUCH….

            That *STUPID* BS PEASANT MONHOL “CLEVERNESS” doesn’t quite cut it
            in WESTERN ADVANCED COUNTRIES …. just among you monhols …
            *72* YEARS OF COMMUNISM TELL YOU HOW FOOKIN **STUPIT** YOU MONHOLS ARE?? ;))

            Still a kasha shortage there? 😉

            Note how you Asiatics now are SELLING rat meat as “healthy” :))

            Lot of fun with that :)
            YOUR KIND DISGUSTS PEOPLE!!

            Should be terminated …. & FED to RATS!! :)))

          • Vasyl P.

            You done trollin yet? 😉

          • Andrew Chmile

            Talk more Ruski CONSONANT HEAVY, VOWEL SHORT, DOG BARK & GROWL “LANGUAGE” at me, STUPID MONHOL!! 😉

            PRIMITIVE, CLUNKY & ARCHAIC!
            Another reason you wanted to LEARNA DA ANGLISH …. ( somewhat anyway 😉
            Faqqot! :)

            ” Vasyl P. @Vapetrenko
            Right-wing freedom fighter; pro-democracy, anti-corruption, anti-feminazis, antifascist, Ukrainian, Russian, American” :)))

          • Vasyl P.

            Is that a no? :))

          • MichaelA

            and changed your name again i see
            get thrown off another ukrainian blog?
            they can see through you

          • Andrew Chmile

            Not really MOLE…. go defend “Vasyl P.” — the RUSKI MOLE & TRUMP fan —some more! 😉

          • MichaelA

            and another putin troll is back
            hi misha
            hows the weather in st peterburg today?

          • Andrew Chmile

            Wanna see my FB page going back YEARS ?? :)

            AND YOURS? 😉

          • Andrew Chmile

            LIAR !!!!

        • Brent

          I’d rather try to guess why you like to use Russian lies and propaganda to state your case, RUSSIAN TROLL.

          The “6 million Ukrainians working in Russia” is a proven Putin lie. The actual number is just over 1 million. But being the good little NEW RUSSIAN TROLL, of course such an “Odesa educated Middle Eastern like yourself who now lives in the U.S.” will of course try to claim Putin’s propaganda as being accurate.

          Maybe you’d like to apply for a spot on Drumpf’s “Pro-Russian Propaganda Unit” while you’re “living in the U.S.?

          http://www.stopfake.org/en/vladimir-putin-exaggerated-the-number-of-ukrainian-immigrants-in-russia-by-five-times/

        • veth

          Russia invaded Donbass and Crimea, killing Ukrainians…………….in good Russian traditions.

        • MichaelA

          you aren’t stating facts, you are stating lies

          you call yourself a christian yet you do the work of the father of lies

          you cant even get your figures right about how many in ukrainians sending money home – very few now, far more in europe

          ukraine is defending fromthe eastern barbarians who seek only to kill ukrainians and supported by fascists like you

      • Njordheim

        What a STUPID UkrNaZZi LOGIC! It shows that Rabvid Ukraps are EVIL MONSTERS who does not care about the people of Crimea!

        • Andrew Chmile

          He’s a RUSKI **MOLE** YOU STUPID SERB ANIMAL!!!

    • Brent

      Yeah, you’re a RUSSIAN TROLL….3 years after Russia invaded Ukraine and all of the sudden you got the urge to come to a Ukrainian news site and comment about it? 5 whole comments 3 years later?!?!?!? Where have you been up until now and why the sudden interest?

      And of course, you’re conveniently ethnically from somewhere else (Middle East AND living in the U.S.),….you claim to have visited Ukraine before when it was under Yanukovych’s rule and was much better than it is now……”Russians saved Crimeans”…….”Kyiv propagandists and racists”…..I think the only you forgot was to bleat “BANDERA!!! BANDERA!!! BANDERA!!!” like all the other good little RUSSIAN TROLLS…..

      Slither back under what rock you emerged from RUSSIAN TROLL…..

      • Njordheim

        Nope! MEC is a nice guy. You are an old, pathetic, sorry a*s Khazarian Troll.

    • zorbatheturk

      You are a Putinoid.

    • Scradje

      Only kremnaзi trolls use the term ‘regime’ for the government of the victims of putlerstan aggression. Do you believe that all imperial powers have the automatic right to steal back territory from former vassal states any time they want and commit mass murder in the process? Or do you reserve that ‘right’ for fascist RuSSia, which actually is run by a regime? A fascist, race supremacist regime that pays savages to murder, torture and rape their way all over other people’s land, has built a weird personality cult around its evil fuehrer, steals off its own people, routinely murders opponents, persecutes minorities, scapegoats foreigners for its own failings, uses the world’s largest propaganda network to demonize its victims (which you are a willing participant), glorifies the genocidal maniacs that ruled in the past and has nothing to offer the world except lies and hate. You have to be one disturbed, evil ‘middle eastern Christian’ to revere the kremlin murder gang.

      • Njordheim

        SHITRADJE – Are you proud to have both mother and father Vile UkrNaZZi?

    • MichaelA

      Sure, the Kerch bridge…. It will never be built
      Anyone found all the billions of rubles rotenberg stole yet?
      ukraine cares about crimea, russia does not
      russia cut off the electricity and the water, ukraine was always willing to supply

    • Njordheim

      GLORY TO RUSSIAN CRIMEA!!

      Should we call UkrNaZZi “ANIMALS” or would that actually be an insult to animals?

      • zorbatheturk

        RuSSian Crime(scene)A. You got that right, you Putin asskleener.

        • Njordheim

          GLORY TO PUTIN and RUSSIAN CRIMEA!!
          Down with Western Ukraine Trolls and UkrNaZZi !!

          • Andrew Chmile

            ***SERBIAN*** MENTAL CASES!!!!

            Sex slave: ‘Every day we were raped’ – CNN.com Paramilitaries loyal to Arkan, the Serbian ultranationalist later indicted for … humanity and that rape was “used by members of the Bosnian Serb …

            http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/07/22/sarajevo.rape/index.html?eref=rss

          • zorbatheturk

            Glory to Putin’s a s s you mean. The source of your sunshine.

  • Njordheim

    CRIMEAN PEOPLE are VERY HAPPY about returning to mother Russia!
    Entire East Ukraine to FOLLOW!! WesternUkraine aka Galician Trash can be independent. Incorporating these trashy, rabid people into Russian Empire was a HUGE MISTAKE!

  • grcap10

    Who is the smart ass who wrote this article? I can tell u that russia invests much more:
    1) 2 new power plants for crimea in sevadtopol
    2) repairing of all streets which were abandoned by ukraine
    3) new ambulances
    4)free access to sites(with ukraine u paid for everything)
    5) control of exchange places( too many illegal in ukraine)
    6) bridge to connect train and cars with mainland russia
    And many many more

    So stop propaganda and see reality. If u gavent been there, better keep mouth shut.
    I was there. And going there every year.
    I saw the differences between russia and ukraine.
    CRIMEA IS NOT AN OCCUPIED TERRITORY- FREEDOM IF PEOPLE DECIDED.
    It is just a political game.
    Usa wanted a NATO base in ukraine, to come closer to russia. It didnt happen. And its good