Crimean officials say Ukraine blockade attempts have failed
“An attempt to impose a ‘tourist blockade’ of Crimea has drowned in the thousands-strong torrent of Ukrainian citizens who, despite of all propaganda and lengthy queues, did not change their decision to visit Crimea,” the head of the Crimean governmental committee for inter-ethnic relations, Zaur Smirnov, said in comments with RIA Novosti.
Smirnov said that the Ukrainian government had ordered border guards to create artificial delays at transition points, forcing Ukrainians to spend hours at transition points at the Crimean border. He added that in the end this plan had failed, however, as the interest in Crimea among tourists is only increasing.
“The Kiev officials got scared of their own citizens’ outrage and of a social mutiny at border checkpoints,” Smirnov said.
The head of the Crimean Republic, Sergey Aksyonov, also commented on the situation on Tuesday, saying that he had personally talked to several tourists from Ukraine and received firsthand information about the treatment they had received from Ukrainian border guards.
“They told me that their attitude to Crimea was absolutely calm as they completely understood that after arrival they would feel the Crimean hospitality. Ukrainian citizens say that they experience no fears or risks during their visits to Crimea, apart from the discomfort that their own authorities and special services attempt to create for them.”
A member of the Crimean regional legislature, Vladislav Gandjara, also told reporters about the numerous obstacles created by Kiev officials to prevent Ukrainian tourists from going to Crimea.
“Kiev created real harassment on the border, created maximum hurdles for those who wanted to cross into Crimea, and launched a propaganda campaign against our republic,” Gandjara said in an interview with Sputnik Radio.
“Despite all this, last year about 100,000 Ukrainian tourists visited us. The final statistics for this year are still unavailable, the tourist season is at its peak, but already we can state that Kiev’s further attempt at a blockade has failed.”
Gandjara said that without the harassment on the part of the Kiev government, the number of tourists from Ukraine could have been even higher.
The Crimean Republic reunited with the Russian Federation in mid-2014, after over 96 percent of its population, the majority of whom are ethnic Russians, approved the move in a referendum. The decision was prompted by the ouster of the democratically-elected president of Ukraine in a violent coup in Kiev, and the installation of a nationalist-backed government that almost immediately declared war on the pro-Russian regions in the country’s southeast, which refused to recognize the newly imposed leadership.
Public opinion polls conducted in subsequent years have shown that the overwhelming majority of the peninsula’s population believe that the reunification with Russia was the right choice.