GLOBAL POLITICS

Five years after Crimea annexation, Russia pumps billions into peninsula's infrastructure

Russia claims the annexation was the righting of a historic wrong, with the peninsula transferred to Ukrainian control in 1954 by the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

In Summary

• Moscow has channelled significant resources into the peninsula's infrastructure since the annexation referendum in 2014, in an effort to end Crimea's dependence on Ukraine.

•  Five years after the annexation took place, the peninsula’s long-term fate remains up in the air. Most of the world still considers it a Ukrainian territory.

A man holds a portrait of Vladimir Putin during celebrations of the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea in Simferopol, Crimea March 15, 2019
A man holds a portrait of Vladimir Putin during celebrations of the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea in Simferopol, Crimea March 15, 2019
Image: REUTERS

 

In March this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin defiantly led his country in marking five years since the takeover of Crimea peninsula.

Putin signed a treaty with representatives from Crimea on March 18, 2014, to make it part of Russia after a military intervention and controversial referendum.

 

Russia claims the annexation was the righting of a historic wrong, with the peninsula transferred to Ukrainian control in 1954 by the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Moscow has channelled significant resources into the peninsula's infrastructure since the annexation referendum in 2014, in an effort to end Crimea's dependence on Ukraine.

Apart from building power stations, a giant bridge has been built from southern Russia to Crimea, across the Kerch trait.

“The face of Crimea is changing. We are rehabilitating schools and other social amenities, building new infrastructure like roads and generally working on improving the quality of life for our people,” said Sergey Aksyonov, the Head of the Crimea Republic during in an interview with the Star in Simferopol.

Ukraine cut off energy supplies to the peninsula and blocked shipments of Crimea-bound cargo via its territory after Moscow annexed the region in 2014. But five years down the line, Aksyonov says things have changed dramatically.

“We have new power facilities, we have a new 19-kilometre bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia, we have clean piped water in most homes and a new airport as well. We are also rebuilding a lot of towns across the Peninsula with the hope that by the time sanctions are lifted, we will be ready to receive direct foreign investments,” he said.

The accession treaty signed to bring the Black Sea territory into Moscow’s fold is still unrecognised by most countries and the US and the European Union led a broad effort to punish Russia with sanctions. Huge subsidies from Moscow have been a mainstay of Crimea's economy since 2014, fluctuating between $1 billion and $2.7 billion per annum. A survey published by the Center for Public Opinion (FOM) in early March showed only 39 per cent of Russians believe the annexation brought Russia more good than harm, compared to 67 per cent in 2014.

Undeterred, Russia has kept integrating Crimea into its economy, investing billions in new power plants and building a giant bridge to the peninsula last year. Other projects include a pipeline supplying natural gas from Krasnodar Krai, a new passenger terminal at Simferopol International Airport and the yet-to-be-completed construction of the Tavrida highway.

 

"There is a growing understanding in the world that Crimea is a part of Russia," the speaker of Russia's Upper House of Parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said.

Government statistics in Q1 2019 indicate Crimea grew faster than any other region in Russia. Sevastopol, a port city within Crimea that Russia administers separately, followed in second place.

“We are regenerating the city, creating new economic opportunities and encouraging investors from all over the world to put their, money here,” said Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Governor of the City of Sevastopol.

Five years after the annexation took place, the peninsula’s long-term fate remains up in the air. Most of the world still considers it a Ukrainian territory, but Ukrainian citizens must pass through a government checkpoint before making their way to Russian passport control to gain entry into Crimea.