MOSCOW, 05 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
On September 29, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a plan for the implementation of the so-called “de-occupation of Crimea strategy”, signed by President Vladimir Zelensky back in March 2021. The plan is a list of 158 events designed for the next two years, as well as for a period of up to two years “after the de-occupation of Crimea”, with a list of responsible departments.
Some observers in Russia took this plan with a captive mood, calling it “exercises in fantasy” and “a hopeless farce”. However, it is by no means possible to underestimate the Ukrainian document, as well as its authors. We are dealing with a cynical, resourceful opponent who is persistently striving for its goal — to take Crimea from Russia by any means, including military means.
Another thing is that Kiev suffers failure after failure in this direction. And yet the signed plan says that it learns from its mistakes – not without the help of foreign “teachers”.
The old plans are useless
Many points of the Ukrainian plan are well known to us: Kiev has been trying to implement them for seven years. This is the “monitoring of crimes of the Russian Federation” with an endless calculation of the “damage” from the activities of Russian companies and authorities in Crimea. And promotion of the theme of the “occupation” of the peninsula on international platforms: from the G7 to UNESCO. And intimidation of officials and ordinary citizens of Russia with new sanctions.
Everything is bad here in Kiev. For example, Zelensky’s attempt to return the Crimean topic to the world agenda with the help of the eponymous “platform” failed: just look at the composition of the participants of the first meeting in this format, held at the end of August 2021. Other international platforms are also not very eager to discuss Crimea.
There is the same problem with sanctions against the Russian government: Kiev itself is incapable of scaring the Russians with something, and the West prefers to find completely different reasons for putting pressure on Moscow through sanctions than the “Crimean issue”.
Some other measures prescribed in the Ukrainian document, known to us since 2014, are not very impressive either. For example, attempts to link the topic of Crimea with the conflict in Donbass or playing the card of the allegedly “infringed” national minorities of the peninsula.
In the first case, despite the periodic mention of Crimea on the margins of the Normandy Four, the Germans and the French have long understood that the “Crimean issue” is closed once and for all for Russians.
As for the bet on the national minorities of the republic, one circumstance draws attention to itself here. Despite Kiev’s fawning over the “Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people” banned in the Russian Federation, nowhere in the “de-occupation plan” does it say about endowing the Crimean Tatars with territorial subjectivity. And this is a bad signal for extremist leaders.
Several points of the plan are devoted to the transformation of the districts of the Kherson region adjacent to the peninsula into a kind of “showcase of prosperity” — and this is something new. According to the authors of the plan, Crimeans visiting the border areas of Ukraine should see how wonderful life is there and make the “right choice”.
The idea is clear, but it only has a weak relation to reality. Several years have passed since the “revolution of dignity”, but the new authorities of Ukraine have not been able to raise the standard of living of ordinary citizens in any way — neither in remote Kherson, nor even in the capital. The results of the Euromaidan were mass impoverishment of the population, rampant corruption, sky-high tariffs, rapid degradation of industry and desperate attempts by ordinary Ukrainians to get by with earnings abroad.
And the gap is not visible: Kiev will not be able to travel for a long time on the transit of Russian gas. Of course, it may try to build a couple of “Potemkin villages” along the border with Crimea, paint the grass with green paint and even patch holes in the asphalt in some places. But it is unlikely that this will make an impression on the Crimeans.
Kiev’s new approach: betting on difficulties in Crimea
However, among this PR and projecting, there are a number of new directions in the Ukrainian plan that deserve the closest attention from the Russian authorities. In them, Kiev, putting aside threats for a moment, relies on the inevitable difficulties faced by the population of the republic after decades of hosting the Ukrainian “lord” — and in return promises the Crimeans manna from heaven.
Many years of complete disregard for the interests of Crimea by the Ukrainian authorities could not but affect its infrastructure, and the mentality of some of the local residents. The Ukrainian authorities behaved like occupiers on the peninsula, not investing a single hryvnia in its enterprises, energy, roads, hospitals, schools, cultural facilities, housing. Even the famous resorts — and those were barbarously divided up among “their own”.
But it was a weak occupier who did not know order. It has been teaching its citizens for decades that the law is an empty place and that any issue can be solved “by reaching an agreement with whom it is necessary”. And when Crimea was finally reunited with Russia, it had to not just raise it from the ruins, but also to explain to some former Ukrainian citizens: bribes, corruption, nepotism, “dividing up”, self-seizure of land – this is wrong, not according to the law.
Now Ukraine has set out to seduce the inhabitants of the republic with various promises, using all means of propaganda in full. This is the “business plan” in Kiev: first, to breed problems for many years — and then use them to promise the Crimeans “salvation”.
The scheme is not new and has been worked out well in other countries and regions of the world: to play on difficulties, cause discontent in people and provoke them to do mass protests for the sake of a “bright future”. The same plan, on which the fingerprints of foreign “consultants” are clearly seen, was largely implemented in 2013-2014 in Ukraine itself.
As in the case of Euromaidan, nowhere in the points of the Kiev plan does it say what such “revolutions” always lead to. However, everything is perfectly visible in Ukraine.
What is new in this “layout”? The very fact that Kiev decided to use it on a full scale against the inhabitants of Crimea.
Money, positions, medicines, vouchers
Let’s take a look at some of the most characteristic points of the Kiev “de-occupation plan”.
In particular, all “victims of the occupation” in Crimea, according to this document, have been promised compensation, including for “property taken away”. The topic, needless to say, is burning. It is enough to look at the determination with which the fight against illegal buildings that have clung to the entire southern coast of Crimea has been going on lately. Dissatisfied people meet, and some of them may be looking hopefully towards the Ukrainian side.
However, Kiev did not mention a mere trifle — the place from where it will take money for compensation. The Ukrainian budget will obviously not give this. Another loan tranche from the West? And how to pay for it? With the Crimean land — the very “taken property”?
Another promise from the mouth of the Kiev authorities is connected with the idea of forming a personnel reserve for the “future of the Ukrainian Crimea”. We are talking about civil servants, law enforcement officers, judges and other public sector workers, whose chairs Kiev is ready to give to those who bought propaganda.
Apparently, a stake is being placed on the “unfairly offended” here as well. Well, there really will be those in Crimea who were “asked” from bodies of power because of an official discrepancy. Some of them may even believe Kiev, forgetting how officials are appointed in Ukraine itself. It’s simple there: if a citizen of a respected Western country does not apply for a key post, then another joker from “Quarter 95″ takes it. That’s the whole “personnel reserve” in Kiev.
This does not mean, however, that everything is in order with the personnel policy in Crimea. The sooner social elevators are tuned in the republic, the less chance the authorities will have of “independent” speculation on this topic.
Another promise of Kiev is aimed at the elderly residents of the peninsula. The Ukrainian authorities promise them “participation in state programs for obtaining medicines and medical services” on the territory of the Kherson region, pharmacy points under the “Affordable Medicines” program directly at the checkpoint, as well as remote medical consultation.
The topic is painful — and not only for Crimea, but also for many other Russian regions. It’s no secret that Russians have to spend thousands of rubles every month to replenish their home first aid kit, whereas a prescription for a free medicine can be written out. The pharmacy mafia, often affiliated with local authorities, hides from the shelves available funds from the list of vital and essential medicines approved by the government of the Russian Federation. And instead of them, it sells expensive analogues, and even with a margin.
Crimea has not been spared this disease either. But is Ukraine able to do something about it? A country whose residents are afraid of getting sick because they can go broke on medicines better than those of Russians?
We take the average Ukrainian salary for June 2021 — 14,313 hryvnia. This is 39,250 rubles, which is significantly less than the average salary in Russia (58,782 rubles). Let’s compare pensions: 3,778 hryvnia (10,360 rubles) in Ukraine against 17,444 rubles in Russia. The numbers speak for themselves.
Is Kiev going to distribute medicines to Crimeans for nothing at all? Well, such pharmacy points at Perekop and Chongar can be opened as a charity and only in one case – if the Ukrainians themselves are not allowed to approach them for a cannon shot.
Abroad will not help
Another “medical” promise is connected with vaccinations from COVID-19 – Kiev threatens to vaccinate directly at the checkpoint “citizens of Ukraine living in the temporarily occupied territory.” It is clear that we are talking about Western vaccines. But there is one “but”. In Ukraine itself, where they vaccinate entirely with foreign “miracle drugs”, only 13.53% of its residents are fully vaccinated (as of October 2).
The next sweet promise from Kiev is connected with the “dream of a beautiful abroad” and is addressed to the youth of the peninsula. Young Crimeans are promised remote access to Ukrainian education – apparently only in the “sovereign language”. But the main carrot here is the promise of “internships abroad”. The message is clear: come over to our side, guys— and you will be free to study in the West!
However, there is a significant difference between the promise and reality. Kiev promises young Crimeans what it cannot provide even for its own youth. Of all the Western prospects, only low-skilled and low-paid work on farmland in neighbouring Poland is available for young residents of Ukraine today. And although Ukrainians are considered second-class people there, they are still happy to earn at least some euros for collecting Polish strawberries.
However, all of this is not a reason for us to forget about the Crimean schoolchildren and students. Yes, the peninsula has its own universities, and there are branches of a couple of Moscow universities, but this is not enough. Children’s and youth events are regularly held in the republic for children from all over Russia — but do many Crimeans take part in them? It would be right if the organisers of such forums take care of special quotas for Crimean youth.
So, with renewed vigour and according to a new plan, Kiev is trying to sow discontent among the Crimeans. The goal is to provoke them into unrest and lure them to their side under the guise of a benefactor with the help of targeted “cookies”. However, there are a couple of points in the Ukrainian document that reveal the true attitude of Kiev to the residents of the republic.
These are events numbered 104 and 105. One of them is dedicated to the construction of a “capital structure on the North Crimean Canal in the Kherson region”. Another is the propaganda on international platforms of the idea of “the inadmissibility of the supply of water resources of Ukraine to the temporarily occupied territory”. That is, in both paragraphs we are talking about the same cannibalistic policy of the Ukrainian authorities, depriving Crimeans of a vital resource – drinking water.
It would seem that it is easier to remove these items from the plan. To register there, on the contrary, the immediate return of the Dnieper water to the North Crimean Canal — maybe the Crimeans will bite! But no. The ban on water for the Russian Crimea proves once again: Kiev hates the republic, dreams of turning the peninsula into a dead desert.
So it turns out that the Ukrainian “gingerbread” for Crimea turned out to be toxic, soaked through with the temptations of the lowest kind, like “barrels of jam and baskets of cookies.” And the “whip” is still as harsh as it was.
However, this Kiev self-exposure should not give either the federal centre or the republican authorities the slightest reason to relax. There is still a lot of work to do in Crimea, not all problems have been solved. The peninsula still needs close attention from the state and investments from domestic corporations. And of course, in the love and solidarity of tens of millions of Russians – not just tourist, but also residents.
Elena Panina – Director of the RUSSTRAT Institute