The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

“What should we hold on to?”: How Crimea lives through 5 years after the referendum

Five years have passed since the 2014 events of the year. Crimeans give birth in Krasnodar so that the child will travel to Europe in the future, deliberately write the address with errors when ordering on AliExpress, complain about low wages and high prices and have already resigned to the fact that being unrecognized is a long time.

Фото: Depositphotos

On the outskirts of Feodosia there is a house resembling a traditional Ukrainian wattle and daub hut - a hut with clay-covered walls. A rooster runs around the courtyard, the wash basin is made of the lantern ceiling, earthquake cracks on the walls, tells Bi-bi-si. Here lives 63-year-old pensioner Anna Buyanova. It was she who, in May 2016, complained to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about the low retirement of Crimeans, and she heard: “There is no money, but you hold on.”

The meeting of the people and the prime minister was unplanned. Local residents learned from familiar officials: Medvedev will go to the Aivazovsky Art Gallery.

“Some people came back from the night to take a seat, just to see the prime minister,” says Buyanova, who has a strong eye.

When the prime minister arrived, the Theodosians surrounded him. Real Medvedev was different from the one everyone used to see on TV.

“I told him:“ My dear son, you are so small and skinny, how can you manage the country? ”, Recalls Buyanova.

Judging from the video made by eyewitnesses, Buyanova responded to the famous phrase “No money, but you hold on,”: “We understand.”

Three years later, she continues the controversy with Medvedev in absentia.

“Ay, my son, dear, what is there to hold on to ?! A straw - and she will drown! What to hold on to? For the air or something? ”, - she says to the correspondents of the BBC.

To the request to compare her life before the annexation of the Crimea and now, five years later, the pensioner replies that Crimea is now “protected”, but after “going to the Russian Federation” citizens are “being ripped off the last, everywhere you have to pay.”

According to her, the current pension is enough for her “a week or two.” “We have a big injustice on the ground,” the pensioner sighs.

After listening to Buyanova, correspondents Bi-bi-si drove along the route Theodosius - Yalta - Sevastopol - Simferopol - Evpatoria. And it turned out that the emotional and bright speech of the famous Feodosia pensioner accurately expresses the mood of the majority of the Crimean people on the eve of the five-year annexation.

“Prices are just tin”

Grocery store in the village of Orekhovo - on the road from Simferopol to Evpatoria. The cost of a kilogram of bananas is close to one hundred rubles ($ 1,55), a bottle of local kefir costs almost ninety rubles ($ 1,40), and a fresh flat cake will cost thirty (about 50 cents). This is the price level of premium Moscow supermarkets.

- So what to do? It's sad, - the saleswoman philosophically remarks when asked by a correspondent. Bi-bi-si about high prices.

- And how do you live here?

- Someone easier, someone harder. To the one who is in power, it is certainly easier, - she answers, obviously dissatisfied with the fact that the visitor does not buy anything, but only asks questions.

Official statistics is very contradictory reflects one of the main problems of the Crimea. So, from the data of Rosstat it follows that in February the average cost of a dozen eggs in Simferopol was 59 rubles (90 cents), which is less than in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But dairy products, for example, cost almost as much as in Moscow. And potatoes - even more expensive than in the Russian capital.

The Crimea is also officially the most expensive gasoline in Russia, and real estate prices have long been inferior only to Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Moscow region (data from Rosstat and TsIAN).

Confidence in the objectivity of statistics undermines local authorities, who conduct their own monitoring of prices: sometimes their data varies even with Rosstat. According to their data, for example, it turns out that a kilogram of flour in Krasnodar cost 6 rubles in February cheaper than in the local trading networks of Simferopol (Pud, Furshet, etc.) Although, according to Rosstat, their cost is almost the same .

Фото: Depositphotos

Crimeans in the matter of prices are guided by their feelings.

“Russian prices are just hard,” military pensioner Svetlana from Sevastopol estimates the situation.

"Crazy, wild," says Bi-bi-si resident Evpatoria.

"In Ukraine, goods also cost at the level of the capital, Kiev," she recalled in an interview with Bi-bi-si resident of Yalta.

“Prices are at the same level, the currency has simply changed,” the young man from Evpatoria is sure.

From 2014, cumulative inflation in the Crimea amounted to 46%, follows from the data of Krymstat. For comparison - on average in Russia, prices for the same period increased by 27%.

This growth was inevitable, believes the general director of the INFOLine agency Ivan Fedyakov: Five years ago there was another logistics of delivering goods to the peninsula - they came directly from the territory of Ukraine. In addition, the Crimean prices rose with the Russian due to the devaluation of the ruble, he adds.

In June, 2018, during the last straight line with President Vladimir Putin, a Crimean entrepreneur, standing on Mount Mithridates on the outskirts of Kerch, complained to the president about high prices. Putin acknowledged that there was a problem, but he predicted that after the opening of freight traffic on the Kerch bridge, prices would “stabilize”.

The wagons went to the bridge in October 2018 of the year. However, this did not affect the prices, contrary to the forecasts of the president. Over the past three months of 2018, prices in the Crimea increased by one percent, and inflation of the year exceeded the figures of 2018. In January, prices jumped another one percent.

“The bridge had no effect,” admits Arsen, a young resident of the Azovskoye village in the northeast of Crimea, in March 2019. And complains about low incomes, due to which the rise in prices is perceived by Crimeans especially sharply.

"We need a mock up"

Salaries and prices - a popular area for comparing the two periods of the Crimean history.

On the main embankment of Theodosia to correspondents Bi-bi-si An elderly woman in a white beret approached - the poet Larisa Timofeeva. She invited me to a creative evening called “Crimea. Russia. Fate "and offered to read on camera a poem dedicated to the events of the year 2014.

"The fields will bloom again in lush color,

And happily sigh your people.

You will be reborn, Crimean land,

Under the Russian flag of the sun and freedom. "

Following the verses, a conversation began about the prose of life. “It’s hard for those who have a small pension,” admits Timofeyeva. She has her 16 thousand ($ 250), but she pays for utilities five ($ 77) - a big apartment.

At the beginning of 2019, the average pension in the Crimea was 12,7 thousand rubles ($ 197).

The same situation with salaries. In 2018, the average nominal wage on the peninsula was 29,2 thousand rubles ($ 454), follows from the data of Krymstat. Crimean salaries are significantly lower than the national average (43 thousands - $ 668), as well as those regions with which it is customary to compare the peninsula at prices. Thus, in the Krasnodar Territory, citizens in 2018, on average, received 33,6 thousands of rubles ($ 522).

Even this salary, small by federal standards, differs from city to city. For example, in Feodosia, the average salary is 16 thousand rubles ($ 249), says a local resident Natalia. According to her, it is impossible to live on it. “Someone in the summer earns on renting housing to tourists, someone travels to work. But if you take a family without any real estate and without a business, then for survival you need to work together, ”she says.

Фото: Depositphotos

However, official data is different: according to Krymstat, in the first nine months of 2018, Theodosia was among the top three cities on the peninsula with the highest salaries — the agency earned thousands of rubles ($ 31,3) in 486.

A young man named Ridvan who lives in one of the villages of the Dzhankoysky district in the north-eastern Crimea works at a gas station in the “three days later” mode and receives 9 thousand rubles per month for his work. "Rescues gardening," he says.

“Now summer does not bring me any special income,” says a young girl from the same city.

“With Ukraine, I had enough pension,” recalls the elderly woman of Theodosia.

“Pensions are higher compared to Ukrainian pensions,” her fellow countryman believes, on the contrary.

"Salaries are now higher," says a resident of Yalta

According to RBC's estimates, if in 2013 for one salary, the average Crimean could afford to buy just over seven food baskets a month, then in 2018 - almost ten.

The ability of a Sevastopol to buy an apartment has increased compared to Ukrainian times by 7%, calculated Bi-bi-si based on data from the local ACG agency

"Ukraine would not pull such volumes"

Small wages are contrasted with large-scale cash injections from the federal budget. Since 2015, almost half a trillion rubles ($ 7,77 billion) have been spent on the program “Socio-economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol”, of which 140 billion ($ 2,17 billion) - only in 2018 year.

All this financial flow goes to the infrastructure: in five years, the Kerch bridge was built, the Tavrida highway was built and reconstructed, which would pass through the entire peninsula, two new thermal power plants were built, an 12-storeyed hospital was built in the capital of Crimea. Based on a public-private partnership, a new terminal of the Simferopol airport was built.

First of all, investments in infrastructure were recalled by local residents when answering the question of what has changed on the peninsula over the past five years.

“For five years, Crimea saw such financial investments that Ukraine had not seen over the entire period,” says a young resident of Yevpatoria.

"Ukraine would not have pulled such volumes," says a pensioner from Simferopol, listing the infrastructure projects of recent years.

True, the popular opinion on the peninsula that the Ukrainian authorities only took money from the peninsula without giving anything in return is not supported by statistics.

Фото: Depositphotos

In the 2013 year - the last full-fledged year under the Ukrainian authorities - half of the Crimean budget was formed by subsidies from the central government, BBC calculated. Now the federal budget forms the local treasury by two thirds. Although it is clear that the possibilities of the Russian budget are higher: in 2013, the budget of the autonomous republic of Crimea was 1,1 billion dollars, in 2018 - 2,8 billion dollars.

However, comparing their lives before annexation and after, most Crimeans said Bi-bi-sithat it either "did not improve" or "remained at the same level."

Attitude to infrastructure projects as something that does not have a qualitative impact on everyday life is typical for residents of all regions of Russia, political analyst Andrei Kolyadin notes.

Authorities believe that new roads and power plants will provide a breakthrough in the future, but residents want to change right now - for example, increasing revenues, the expert says. The result is a growing discontent.

On childbirth in Krasnodar

For five years, almost all hints of the Ukrainian past of the peninsula disappeared from public space. Road signs and address plates in the Ukrainian language are replaced by Russians. However, in some places the past still reminds of itself.

So, in Simferopol correspondent Bi-bi-si found the pointer "vul. Sergeeva-Tsensky "and a sign" Ukraine. Pam'yatka Arkhitekturi "on the building of the Ministry of Finance of Crimea. At the gas stations there were old gas stations, on which it is written “to enter the hryvnia”, that is - “the cost in hryvnias”. Trolleybuses and minibuses “Bogdan” produced by the same-name Ukrainian corporation Oleg Gladkovsky, the ex-partner of President Petro Poroshenko, still scurry through the streets of the Crimean cities.

“Our life has changed in a different direction, we are very happy,” a resident of Yevpatoria cheerfully compares Ukrainian and Russian times. But she admits that she has kept the Ukrainian passport - according to her, as a “souvenir” in a “casket”.

And it is not the only one: Crimeans not only hold passports with a yellow-blue trident, but also use them instead of Russian ones.

The border between the "mainland" Ukraine and the Crimea near the village Kalanchak. The checkpoint on the Ukrainian side is emphasized temporary: hasty assembled booths, concrete blocks with embrasures for firing right on the road. Passports have to be shown standing on a cold steppe wind outside: there are no premises for inspection. All this seems to underline the attitude of the Ukrainian authorities to the events of 2014 of the year: on the other side of the border, the temporarily occupied territory.

The Russian checkpoint looks more fundamental: closed rooms for passport and customs inspection, equipment for scanning all carried baggage.

Direct passenger interrupted. To get to Ukraine and back, Crimeans first arrive by bus to the border, go on foot through two checkpoints, then get on the bus again and go about their business.

The only convenience is the opportunity to buy one ticket for two buses at once. It looks like a plastic token, on one side of which, for example, is written “Armyansk” (a north-Crimean city), and on the other side is “Kherson” (a city in the south of Ukraine).

Despite the difficulties, over 120 thousands of people in both directions pass through the checkpoints in the north of Crimea every month, according to the latest statistics of the Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine. At the same time, according to the census 2014 of the year, conducted after the annexation, only 46 thousand Crimean citizens retained their Ukrainian citizenship, with a population of 2,2 million.

Residents of the peninsula use Ukrainian passports to travel “to the mainland”, they travel to the Kherson region to reissue documents. Often, re-issuance is accompanied by additional checks, it follows from the UN report on human rights in Crimea.

“Because of all these labor costs, it is more difficult for me to go to my parents in Ukraine,” said Natalia, a resident of Theodosia. “And before that I could take a bus in Simferopol in the evening and be with them in the morning.”

It is problematic to get out of the Crimea not only to Ukraine, but also to Europe. Some countries refuse to issue Schengen visas to residents of the peninsula due to the unrecognized status of the occupied territory.

However, travel companies in Simferopol and Sevastopol help to get the coveted stamp in the passport, even with a Crimean registration, said Anastasia, a resident of the peninsula. True, the cost of the service reaches 800 euros (900 and odd dollars) for one visa. In one of the Sevastopol travel agencies reported that for the "guaranteed" visa will have to give 600-700 euros (680-790 dollars), plus you have to go to Krasnodar or Moscow for fingerprinting.

In the list of countries that allegedly issue visas to Crimeans, an employee of Nadezhda called the Czech Republic and Italy. They were also mentioned in the article "Radio Liberty", devoted to the visa problem of the Crimea.

However, even travel agencies-mediators can not help in any way if a visa is required for a child born in Crimea after annexation. "In the birth certificate he says:" Crimea, Russia. " The same is in the column "Birthplace" in the passport for travel abroad. With such a record it is impossible to get a Schengen. They give it to the whole family, but not to the child, ”complains Anastasia from Sevastopol.

Those who know about this problem, try to go to give birth in Krasnodar, adds her compatriot Catherine. In addition, Krasnodar is also the nearest place from where you can fly to Europe by direct flight: because of the sanctions, the new Simferopol airport serves only flights from Russia.

But they go to Krasnodar not only for childbirth or landing on an international flight: there you can see shops that do not work in the Crimea.

"We are like Northern Cyprus"

“Hurray, finally we are in Magnet,” says Yalta resident Vyacheslav Reprintsev about one of the largest retail chains in Russia. “Magnet!”, His wife rejoices, half in jest.

They lead YouTube-channel “Crimea through the eyes of locals”. A separate video is devoted to visiting the store FixPrice in Anapa, another - about the shopping trip “Crossroads” and “Magnet. In sum, both scored 70 thousands of views.

For Crimeans, who rarely leave the peninsula, these stores, which are familiar to all Russians, are truly a wonder. Neither X5 Retail Group (owns the Pyaterochka, Perekrestok and Karusel networks), nor Magnit, nor FixPrice, nor any other networks began to work in the Crimea after the annexation.

However, there are network players who are not afraid to work in the Crimea. For example, the Russian "Sportmaster" has three stores on the peninsula. At the same time, the company opened outlets in Ukraine. The situation is similar with the French Auchan, which works openly in Simferopol and in mainland Ukraine.

Sometimes retailers work on the peninsula not directly, but through related structures. Until recently, "L'Etoile" sold cosmetics to the residents of the Crimea through its one hundred percent "daughter" in the Crimea. However, at the beginning of 2019, the company went to Alexander Rubin, who previously worked as the financial director and director of corporate governance at L'Etoile.

In some cases, a possible connection with a major federal player is hidden deep.

For example, in the Crimea there is not a single federal network of filling stations - neither Rosneft, nor Gazpromneft, or Lukoil. But at the same time, there are several gas stations called “T ~ oil”, which use in their design the firm red-green colors of “Tatneft”.

One of them, not far from Yalta, is managed by Resurs-A, recorded for a company from Tatarstan, its final owner is Sergey Kucheryavenko. He is the director or owner of another 255 company.

At the same time on the day when the reporter visited Bi-bi-si, gasoline from Tatneft-AZS-Yug was sold on it.

Фото: Depositphotos

Resource-A was already mentioned in a Reuters investigation in December 2017. The Sevastopol filling station was issued to it, which was previously controlled by the KONTS company, which is associated with the Tatneft subsidiary.

In Crimea, there is not only federal retail and filling networks. There are no offices of cellular operators of the "big four".

Of the popular Russian banks in the Crimea, the Russia Bank, which has fallen under sanctions, has been working for a long time. Neither Sberbank, nor VTB, nor Alfa Bank on the peninsula are not represented.

"Sanctions", - casually, without being distracted from work, explains the barista at a coffee shop in Evpatoria, when a correspondent Bi-bi-si trying unsuccessfully to pay for coffee using Apple Pay.

Instead, the phone has to get the card itself and attach it to the terminal. The transaction through the American Visa, which does not recognize the annexation, goes well: this time the information on the purchase of double espresso is processed through the national payment card system of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (NSPK), and not through the foreign Apple servers.

Yllta and Sevast0p0l

Because of the fears of federal players in Crimea, a peculiar economic ecosystem has emerged - local retail chains, operators and banks operate here. Some directly belong to the Russian state - such as, for example, the largest bank RNKB with 170 branches on the peninsula. The ownership structure of others goes into anonymous offshore: for example, the cellular operator "Wave" is recorded on a company from the British Virgin Islands.

However, the locals have become accustomed to this ecosystem as inevitable. “The experience of Transdniestria and Northern Cyprus shows that isolation can last for decades,” says Natalia from Theodosia.

Under these conditions, Crimeans have new everyday habits that they could hardly have imagined when they went to the referendum in March 2014,

The basic technological habit was the use of a VPN service that allows you to hide the Crimean IP address and freely use Internet services. For example, to watch a series via Netflix or a paid movie on YouTube.

"Technical progress does not stand still, I practically do not notice isolation," says a girl from Simferopol. “It can be harder for young people to spend a weekend at home in a cozy atmosphere with a girl and a cat and watch the series. We are trying to find workarounds, ”complains a young resident of Evpatoria.

Purchases in the Chinese online store AliExpress have become a whole science - specialized communities in social networks are devoted to it.

In order to start shopping, Crimeans create a new account for themselves through VPN to hide the current location. Then, by specifying the delivery address, they intentionally make an error in the address to bypass the limitations of the system. For example, they write the character zero instead of the letter “o” in the word Sevastopol, says Ekaterina from Sevastopol.

The tricks work. “I order a lot on AliExpress,” says Aleksey, a resident of Simferopol.

Errors in the address are also made to order bank cards from the “mainland” in order to pay for purchases at international online stores: all seven banks operating in Crimea are under international sanctions.

At least until mid-January 2019, the Yandex.Money and Qiwi cards were delivered to the peninsula, the BBC wrote. For this, the order form was made only one mistake: the address indicated the Krasnodar Territory instead of the Crimea. Yandex and Qiwi then denied that they were delivering maps to the Crimea.

If someone 2014 year brought only domestic difficulties when buying goods in China or watching TV shows, then for many Crimean Ukrainians, it became a tragedy.

“2014 became the litmus test in relations with people and to his country. When nothing is taken from you, you live and love your country. [And when they take her], you understand how dear you are to her. The people I considered to be friends, [and] relatives who turned out to be enemies, disappeared from my life, ”says Olga Pavlenko, an activist at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Crimea.

No flags without anthem

“I’m not talking about Russian, rozimlyuyu Ukraine Ukrainian,” - said the Russian border guard a man who enters the Crimea from the Ukrainian Kalanchak.

The border guard in Russian reassures him that he understands Ukrainian. And then he throws additional questions: “Where are you going from? What are you doing in Odessa? What is your occupation?".

Because of this improvised interrogation, the Ukrainian is noticeably nervous and switches to a great Russian. In the end, it is passed. At the exit from the inspection point, the BBC correspondent catches up with him. “I think, in my behavior, you understand what my position [about annexation] is,” he responds.

In the 2014 year, after the referendum, 15,7% of the inhabitants of Crimea identified themselves as “Ukrainians”, it follows from the census data. Compared with the last Ukrainian census, conducted in 2001, their number decreased by 8%. Are there organizations that protect their interests?

In Crimea, officially operates a public organization "Ukrainian community of Crimea." Her head Anastasia Gridchina regularly gives comments in the state-run media criticizing the Kiev authorities. Among the founders of the community, according to the Unified State Register, there is the former deputy head of the Crimean branch of the “Young Guard of United Russia” Roman Cheginets. At the same time, he also heads the Belarusians of Crimea organization.

Gridchina does not deny that he is cooperating with the authorities, but does not see anything wrong with that. According to her, the community sees as its goal the support of Ukrainian culture in the Crimea, without challenging Russian sovereignty over the peninsula.

Photo: depositphotos.com

“The pro-Russian organization is not interesting to me in principle. It does not make sense, ”says a resident of the Crimea Simferopol Vera Levkovich, who openly declares her pro-Ukrainian views in social networks. “This is a pocket organization,” says Olga Pavlenko.

Until recently, Pavlenko was an activist of the Ukrainian Cultural Center, who was under pressure from law enforcement agencies, follows from the UN human rights report on the peninsula. “We asked to allow an evening in memory of Lesia Ukrainka - we were banned. They organized Ukrainian embroidery courses - the prosecutor's office came to the library where they were held, ”Pavlenko said.

In September, 2018, after searches at her home on suspicion of having links with the “Right Sector” banned in Russia, Pavlenko left Crimea for Ukraine.

The UN connects the prosecution of pro-Ukrainian residents of the Crimea with their views. For example, in 2018, a resident of one of the villages in the north-west of the peninsula Vladimir Balukha was sentenced to a criminal term for possession of weapons and ammunition. But the report’s authors point out that the search, in the course of which they found the ammunition, began after the Balukh once again hung the Ukrainian flag on its house.

Due to the fear of persecution, some Crimean Ukrainians try not to advertise their views and do not participate in any public events. “I'm Ukrainian, for me the events of 2014 of the year are a tragedy. But I do not show myself as a Ukrainian, ”says Natalia from Feodosia.

The UN also fixes serious pressure on the Crimean Tatars, to whom, during the last census, they attributed more than 10% of Crimeans.

Among them are active opponents of what happened to the Crimea in 2014 year. It was the representatives of the Tatar community who were active participants in the 23 rally in February 2014, near the Crimean parliament building, where pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists clashed.

“What else is joining? If you say so, then I have nothing to talk with you! It was annexation! ", - so responded to the call of the correspondent Bi-bi-si a farmer from the Dzhankoy region, an ethnic Tatar who once worked in the local administration.

According to the UN, from 1 January 2017 of the year to 30 of June 2018 of the year, 95 house searches were conducted in the Crimea on charges of terrorism and extremism. Of these, 86% dealt with Crimean Tatars.

For five years, in relation to the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians, opposing the annexation of the peninsula, the pressure has not decreased, the lawyer Nikolay Polozov agrees. “We see that the number of Ukrainian political prisoners is only growing. At the moment, this is already a 73 person, most of them are Crimean Tatars, ”the lawyer notes.

Divided future

In the center of Simferopol, two minutes walk to the monument to "polite people", two high school students hand out leaflets.

“Our life has not changed in any way since 2014. We are now paid for the work of not 20 hryvnia, and 100 rubles, ”- answers the question Bi-bi-si one of them.

“In Simferopol, the buildings were restored, the city flourished, they began to clean it. And before you go - there are bulls and rubbish everywhere, ”on the contrary, the other is pleased.

They see their future in different ways. The schoolboy, who noted the changes for the better, intends to finish the university on the mainland and return to live in the Crimea, because he sees prospects on the peninsula for himself.

His comrade is completely different. “I want to live and study in Ukraine, in Kiev. I do not want to live in Russia".

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