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Je Suis Russia #10 – Crimea

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I am staying in Sevastopol in a very nice hostel. Sevastopol’s history is one of wars and defense of the city. Briefly, Sevastapol was laid siege during the Crimean War from October 1853–February 1856. In the end the British, French and Ottoman Turks fought against Russia. The city was again bombarded and invaded by the Germans during the Great Patriotic War (WWII). They have a saying in Sevastopol, if “uninvited guests come to Sevastopol, we will greet them with fire and iron.”

Sevastopol has and celebrates many generations of military officers and military. There are monuments and museums everywhere. We visited the Panorama Museum which houses a 360 degree painting of the battle of Sevastopol during the Crimean War (photos in a FB album coming soon).

After lunch, my handler, Tanya Bukharina and I travelled by bus to Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea. It is a two hour plus ride on a crowded bus. Another experience in itself. We went to Simferopol to visit the director of the International Activities Department at the Crimean Federal University. We met with Sergei Vasiljevich Yurchenko and his staff for an hour and a half discussing the many political and geopolitical events and situations playing out now in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. After the meeting, Sergei invited us to come back tomorrow morning to meet with students in his program.

What is of importance to the people of Crimea is for the world to know that in the referendum two years ago, after the coup in Ukraine, 97% of the people (of the 87% who voted) voted to return to Russia. I reported earlier that Crimea has always been a part of Russia since before the time of Catherine The Great. It was Nikita Khrushchev, who for some strange political reason, “gave” Crimea to Ukraine. But, it must be understood, that Ukraine was not a “sovereign” country, but a part of the Soviet Union, and therefore, Crimea was still a part of the Soviet Union and Russia prior to the Soviet Era.

So, two years ago, President Putin requested a referendum to let the people decide whether to remain in Ukraine or to return to Russia. The answer is clear, except to the U.S. and the European Union who immediately leveled sanctions on Crimea and have refused to recognized that Crimea is part of the Russian Federation. It is Merica who is accusing President Putin and Russia of “invading” Crimea and annexing it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of great importance to note, the people in Crimea consider President Putin a great leader and a hero to the people. His image is painted onto buildings and I am told his image is silkscreened onto t-shirts. I even saw a coffee cup with his image on it.

Since the referendum, President Putin and the Russian Federation have channeled millions of rubles to Crimea to help them reshape their territory, improve their infrastructure and to transition back to Russian political institutions. President Putin is also building a bridge (2018 completion date) from Crimea to mainland Russia.

Bottom line: the people of Crimea, are mostly happy and hopeful, even if this transition is difficult and there are many hardships.

Imposing sanctions and blockades, as America has done so many times on nations that refuse to go along such as Cuba, Iraq, Libya, and Iran, is a crime against humanity, a gross violation of human rights, and a declaration of war.

Even I have been effected by these criminal sanctions. My credit cards have functioned flawlessly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but NOT here in Crimea. The reason: the sanctions, and Merica does not recognize Crimea as now part of Russia, but still part of Ukraine.

Everyone I have talked to in Moscow, St. Petersburg and now Crimea have all said the sanctions have backfired and even made Russia stronger and more independent.

There is so much more that I would like to share, but I am exhausted and must get some sleep because we are back to Simferopol at 7 am in the morning. I will post some photos on my FB page.

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