The 20th of February will mark two years since the start of military intervention and temporary occupation of the Ukrainian Autonomic Republic of Crimea by the Russian Federation. The democratic, civilized world will never legitimate Kremlin’s act of aggression. The process of restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea and the areas of Donbas, will be challenging but fair and decisive.
Russia is never tired of repeating that Crimea was sort of a gift to Ukraine in 1954. Back then, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev generously offered the destroyed, looted, and broken peninsula to the impoverished Ukraine. War and the deportation did their job – Crimea was almost deserted. Settlers from Russia had no idea how to run the economy in this almost subtropical climate. Some of them saw grapes and corn for the first time in their lives. While the country was rising from the knees, Crimea remained a scorched piece of land.
Was the decision of the Soviet leadership wise? Certainly, it was. By handing Crimea to the Ukrainian Socialist Republic, the leadership immediately removed the question of why the Ukrainians should save the peninsula from devastation when their homes and cities are still in ruins.
According to the Kremlin’s propaganda men, occupation of Crimea means restoring historical justice, the peninsula has been returned home. This is the notion that the Kremlin leadership has been trying to make people in Russia and Crimea believe. However, two years under Moscow, opposition from the Tatar and Ukrainian population who do not support the occupation, showed that the Kremlin puppets did not take into account everything. Behind the Kremlin walls a hope is being cherished that Ukraine will gradually retreat from Crimea, as was the case with Moldova in Transnistria and Georgia in Abkhazia. But the geographic location of Crimea did not allow to cut a piece of the country without the loss for the peninsula itself. Not only was the 65% of Crimean budget made up of subsidies from the center, the peninsula was also receiving water and electricity from the mainland.
Blinded by the promises of federation, Crimeans were waiting for manna to come from heaven just because they were speaking Russian and some of their relatives were living in Russia. Instead they faced the harsh reality. Together with Moscow’s salaries came Moscow’s prices. Private tourist business projects were made illegal and, hence, most Crimeans lost profits. During the first year of occupation the complete lack of tourists exposed the true intentions of the Kremlin. Crimea was no longer a resort, it became a military base for fighting some fictitious American invasion.
Food and energy blockades, once again, confirmed that Russia is not as omnipotent as what was made to look like on the federal TV channels. Darkness on the peninsula made even hard-core supporters of the “Russian World” think about what will happen to them.
It is very difficult for a man to recognise his own mistakes, it is always better to blame someone else for them. The role of the scapegoat was given to Ukraine. Why did it turn the light of? Why do the delicious products no longer come from Kherson? Why should we pay loans that we took from our former homeland? These questions increasingly appear on the lips of local residents. But there is no one to answer them. The local separatists’ authorities keep repeating Kremlin’s propaganda “You must be patient”.
However, these people are not trained to endure. Yes, objectively speaking, they are accustomed to bad Ukrainian roads, corruption with the government and a number of other problems. Yet, there is freedom in Ukraine: freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of a democratic European choice.
Today touristic Crimea is gradually becoming a strict regime colony, where the king is generously handing out electricity generators to the people and where on cities’ main squares pseudo-holidays are being celebrated in order to express gratitude to the “generous” Putin.
Russia is destroying the Ukrainian Crimea gradually and relentlessly. The collapse of the natural wonders “Silver Fountain Jets” and a threat of collapse of “The Swallow’s Nest” are in some way symbolic of the decline of the pearl of the South.
It turned out that the Russians themselves were not ready to Crimea’s return. The euphoria of the “return to the historic homeland” is over. Together with the hangover, came the realisation that you have to pay for the pleasure out of the federal budget, out of your civil servants’ salaries. The chief ideologist of Russian propaganda, Alexander Dugin, already suggested that the Crimeans were ungrateful for the gift of fate – unification with Russia.
“Look here: “Russian world” saved Sevastopol and returned it to the homeland without any victims. What about Sevastopol? Former people of Sevastopol would say that they do not need help, instead the resources should be used to restore “Novorossia” [New Russia], develop the empire, and destroy enemies of Russia. But no one said this. And their [people in Crimea] rhetoric is different. It is almost as if Russia now owes something to them. They are not willing to be patient. They were living under Western puppets having nothing. The infrastructure of the Black Sea Fleet was surrounded by the landfill and the ruins of the city’s former greatness. But now, they began to complain about the problem with the roads… Russia was doing fine and was the greatest for millennia without “good roads”. Did you already rebuild all the temples? No, not only in Sevastopol; there is also “Novorossia”. There are fragments of the empire, which must be collected. What are you doing for this? You are speaking against the authority? Under Kyiv’s authority you lived in poverty, yet you tolerated it, and here suddenly you want wealth? The existential meaning of a true Russian man is different. He should think first and foremost about the empire and his Christian soul” – believes Dugіn.
When occupying the territory, the aggressor did not realise that Ukraine was teaching people how to live differently. Ukraine taught freedom. This word, so strange to the occupant’s ear, is what the Russian aggressors will never understand.
Most people on the peninsula are aware that the talk about the great empire will not help to fill the city’s promenades with tourists, and networks with electricity. Therefore, the return of Crimea to Ukraine is only a matter of time. The protests in Yalta and other Crimean towns and yellow-blue flags on the streets are the best proof that this time is closer than we think. Andrew Lavreniuk