Russia annexed Crimea nine years ago. The peninsula is also fighting in the current Ukrainian war. However, very little criticism of Russia is heard.
Artjom Orlowskij is preparing his boat for the next season. Even if he doesn’t know if he will take tourists to the Black Sea again. It’s very dangerous since the war against Ukraine. And already in Crimea there are almost no vacationers.
Before the war, the peninsula was a popular vacation spot, especially for Russians. Meanwhile, Crimea is in focus mainly because of Russian military bases. The port city of Sevastopol is the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and a frequent target of Ukrainian counterattacks. The peninsula is of great military but also symbolic significance for Ukrainians and Russians.
annexation in violation of international law
Because on March 18, 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, in defiance of international law. After an unrecognized referendum, the outcome of which is internationally debated.
The European Union then imposed sanctions on Russia. Apparently, this did not prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from sending Russian troops to Ukraine and annexing other territories last year.
“In retrospect, the sanctions were too weak to have a lasting impact on Russia,” says Eastern Europe expert Sebastian Hoppe.
No open criticism of Russia
If you ask the people on the streets of Sevastopol, you will not hear any criticism of Russia’s annexation. On the contrary. A lot has improved since then, there are infrastructure, new parks and playgrounds, residents say.
Russia provided several billion euros in subsidies to Crimea. This was part of the so-called integration process that made Crimea a territory of the Russian Federation for Moscow.
“I’m totally against Ukraine retaking Crimea. If I can get a gun, I will defend Sevastopol with a rifle,” says Nikolay Mihaylenko, a Crimean resident.
Tens of thousands of people left Crimea
But the truth is that tens of thousands of people have left Crimea since 2014. Those who stay here either support Putin or keep their political views to themselves.
As the anniversary approaches, the propaganda machine is in full swing. The Russian anthem is sung and flags are waved at various patriotic events. The residents of Crimea already have no other choice.
Deprivation of citizenship?
Ukrainians want to take back the peninsula. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly stressed that the war in Crimea will end.
But for Putin, this is unlikely. “Crimea is more important to Putin than it is to the wider Russian population,” says Eastern European expert Hoppe. Politically, the fate of Crimea is therefore connected with the fate of Putin.
As a ZDF correspondent, Nina Niebergall covers Russia, the Caucasus region and Central Asia.
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