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The death of the Massandra winery in occupied Crimea

Photo: V.S. Biletskyi
The death of the Massandra winery in occupied Crimea
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

In April 2014, a few weeks after the annexation of Crimea, I encountered the Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov during a broadcast of Radio Svoboda. The official was boorish and insolent.

When compared with other supporters of Putin’s adventures, he was especially rude and insulting when responding to comments about the real international status of Crimea. In short, it was obvious that Boris Titov was nervous.

Russian colleagues explained the reasons for this hysterical behavior after the broadcast. They said that the ombudsman was preparing to seize the winemaking enterprises on the peninsula and that my constant comments on the restoration of international law and the retribution facing Russian war criminals forced him to doubt the longevity of his own plans. This is why Titov reddened and paled during the broadcast and repeated “You’re a fool! A fool!” as if wound up. It was business, nothing personal.

Three years after the discussion with the odious official I read a great investigative article in the Russian online publication Medusa on the fate of Crimean winemaking. Boris Titov is mentioned only once, when the subject is his attempts to appropriate Novyi Svit (famous Crimean champagne house — Ed.). But the main part of the article is devoted to the sorry fate of the legendary Massandra winery, which was transferred under the management of the affairs of the president of the Russian Federation. In Russia everyone knows what this expression hides; the simpler phrase is “seized by Vladimir Putin.”

There are all kinds of  invaders. After all, one must know how to manage seized property. The problem in modern Russia is not only complete contempt for the norms of international law and morality, but also blatant incompetence. It can be seen very clearly in the fate of Crimean winemaking. Massandra will cease being Massandra, and Novyi Svit will cease being Novyi Svit. Everything will work out for Putin and Titov.  More accurately, nothing will work out.

Legendary Massandra sherry. Photo: Pavel Mozhaev
Legendary Massandra sherry. Photo: Pavel Mozhaev

When we think about the return of Crimea, we often imagine that we will return to “zero”, to the point when the annexation began. And that normal peaceful life will begin again, and that little by little Crimea with turn into a normal Ukrainian region with Crimean Tatar characteristics. But this is a great illusion. Right in front of our eyes everything is dying that once formed the essence of life on the peninsula, not only during its existence in the USSR and independent Ukraine but also in pre-Soviet times. To the local Crimean robbers who still hesitated to cut the branch they were sitting on were added the Moscow looters. Many of them are well aware that they will have to give up the peninsula sooner or later. And this is why they are rushing to squeeze it like a ripe fruit.

There is nothing new in any of this. This was pretty much the attitude of the Russian authorities regarding the Kaliningrad region after World War II. It seemed that this territory would not remain part of the USSR for very long and that is why the Russians removed everything from it. When 30 years later, after the Helsinki meeting, the European borders were declared inviolable, the decision was made to develop the Kaliningrad region. But it was already late. The former East Prussia had finally been transformed into a dead Russian province.

If Crimea is not liberated soon from the looters, it will suffer the same sad fate.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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