Andriy Klymenko: A Strategy to Bring Crimea Back to Ukraine: Return is Inevitable

Head of Supervisory Board, Maidan of FA,
BSNews Chief Editor,
Honored Economist of Crimea, Yalta-Kyiv

Photos: Mikhail Rosenstein, Yalta, February 7th 2012, BSNews

I would really like to open the second chapter of the the Maidan of Foreign Affairs’ discussion proposed in Alex Kuropiatnyk’s article (previous issue of ZN.UA) with the words: "We will definitely return Crimea. This is inevitable for many reasons. But the main one is -- the return of Crimea has become part of the national idea in the country that was born once again when so recently and yet so long ago, on a December night when it seemed that everything was over, the bells of St. Michael’s Cathedral picked up and carried the call of Maidan: "Kiev, get up ..."

Ukraine will never accept the annexation of Crimea. And any Ukrainian politician who will only doubt it or will just try to keep silent on the issue, should stop being a Ukrainian politician.

It’s amazing: just three months ago, when the Kremlin signed a shocking act of annexation, for us in Crimea it seemed like it would remain that way for many, many years. Today, despite the increasingly brutal and unpredictable aggression of the Russian Federation in Donbas, it appears that it will happen much faster. Time is accelerated here now. A day is a month. And sometimes even more.

It’s often being said, and the author who has more than once worked on different Crimean development programs has also agreed with that, that strategies have to be developed with a cold mind. Not true. Not always. Not everywhere or on every issue. Emotion, drive, boldness, faith, political will, people’s passion, whatever you call it, is the greatest success factor of a strategic plan. Especially when that strategic plan is the return of Crimea. And so, its main motto, as well as its main part, is:

Active Attack

In the shortest possible time, miraculously and right before our eyes, the truly people’s success in reviving the combat capability of the armed forces and the disruption of the Kremlin’s plan for the "land corridor" to the Crimea along the Azov Sea shoreline, has almost ensured the inevitability of success.

As a result, from a promising trade and transit, tourism and spa center of the Black Sea region Crimea has turned into almost a geo-economic island with extremely vulnerable and totally inadequate supply routes for everything except grain and gas. We need to remove the "almost" part and give the opportunity for the "island" factors of the economic geography of Crimea to work their way and to maintain and strengthen their effectiveness. And it's called ...

Economic war

Let’s admit right away -- we will have to strike many, including our own.

But surprisingly, the Crimean "political Ukrainians" (among them -- Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Jews, and a lot of ethnic Russian and mixed families) who have clearly shown their position during the recent dramatic months, do not only understand the need for that, but literally want to bring the fire on themselves. Every day they ask those who have left for the mainland when Ukraine will finally start a tough economic blockade of the peninsula, adding: "We will take it…just return us faster ..."

An “economic war" is not something new in history.

In 1939, leading the government in the early days of World War II, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill created a special ministry of economic war with the Third Reich. It quickly analyzed all the weaknesses: export and import connections, assets abroad and ships at sea and the critical commodity and financial positions. And acted -- inventively, tough and fast.


The blockade of Crimea is already in place.

The application and even just the threat of the sanctions, in other words, the emotional factor, the fear of possible trouble, led to the collapse and degradation of the financial and banking system in Crimea. All reputable and innovative banks left the peninsula and were replaced by those who do not care. The latter are the three hundreds and five hundreds in the rankings without even correspondent accounts abroad. The only heavyweight there is the "Rossiya" bank that is already under the sanctions.

More than four million Ukrainians who make up to the ¾ of the annual flow of tourists in Crimea, insulted by the occupation did not go on vacation there creating a chain reaction of negative consequences - reducing the number of trains, the money supply, the income of the Crimean business and the local budgets, the commodities turnover, etc.  

All – I want to emphasize it, ALL (!) – the global and small cruise companies and almost all freight shipping companies have canceled their stops at the Crimean ports. They follow the recommendation of the General Assembly of the United Nations "to refrain from any actions or steps that could be interpreted as an admission of any change of status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol ..." The same is with all the airlines, except for the Russian ones. And even those make a big detour and fly to Simferopol airport from the Krasnodar region over the Kerch Strait.

Following the reputable banks and fearing expropriation, all the investment projects and future contracts have left too. Again, except for the Russian ones.

To logically complete the economic blockade, especially in the view of the recent EU and US decisions on the sanctions related to the Crimea annexation, we need to take a few more steps.

of the Transportation Blockade

It is necessary and possible to quickly and completely stop the calls of the foreign merchant ships at the Crimean ports.

According to our “Black List “monitoring project, Greek and Turkish ship-owners are the most frequent offenders. The magnet that draws their tankers, despite the occupation of Crimea, is the liquefied natural gas terminal in Kerch Sea Fishing Port and the already sanctioned Feodosia tank farm.

The same countries, Greece and Turkey, plus Italy, all NATO members, two of whom are the EU and one – an associate EU-member, have excelled in helping the occupants by giving them six large ferries for transportation vehicles.

Three Turkish ferries that were re-sold via shady deals and that after our publications have rapidly changed their names and flags, go from Zonguldak to Sevastopol, as well as along the narrowest transportation corridor -- from Novorossiysk to Feodosia. As far as we know, at least one of them carried Russian military equipment to Crimea. At the same time, Greek and Italian ferries do not even conceal their state affiliation when transporting vehicles from Taman in Kerch.

For Ukrainian diplomats and lawyers it is not difficult to make them go away and even sanction them.

But if the government officials cannot find time for that, media and civil society activists will. The approach has already been tested: after publications and a crime report to Iljichyovsk transportation prosecutor’s office by an Odessa Automaidan activist, the Turkish tanker guilty of a stop at Feodosiya port, did not dare to enter the port, fearing arrest.

As far as the seagoing vessels that belong to Russian ship-owners, many of those certainly violate the legal regime of the occupied territory. But if the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Ministry of Justice join efforts, those ship-owners would soon feel the threat of an arrest hovering over any one of their ships at any of the ports where they normally stop in 100 countries that support the UN General Assembly resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And that in turn, can lead to the refusal of coverage by the insurance company. There have already been such precedents.

Regarding the Russian planes that fly to Simferopol airport, the issue, even though troublesome due to their large number (around 60 aircrafts daily in July alone), is resolvable.

However, the goal justifies the efforts: registering the number of a particular aircraft on the occupied territory and passing it to Eurocontrol and ICAO should for that aircraft close access to airports of the civilized countries. And that time will come soon.

Investment blockade

Consider a fresh example. A Turkish hotel chain Rixos has recently started to recruit staff, including personnel with the knowledge of Turkish language, for a new 5-star hotel whose opening is expected in August 2014.

Even before the Crimea occupation, "Sberbank of Russia" became an investor of the “Mriya” hotel complex in Opolznevoye village, 25 km from Yalta. The complex that can host up to a thousand guests was designed by a famous British architect, Norman Foster. The Turkish hotel chain will become the new hotel’s managing company and the object in the occupied Yalta will be called RixosYaltaMriya 5 *.

Does the managing company understand that to many partial Ukrainian citizens it is no secret that in addition to the three dozen hotels in ten countries in the world, it also manages a hotel complex in the Ukrainian Carpathians? Does it understand that in this situation, here and now, the principle of “business as usual” may not work? In fact, it most certainly won’t work. And there is even no need to comment what will follow…

Moreover, as we know, fearing international sanctions for the annexation of Crimea, "Sberbank of Russia", has wrapped up its banking network on the peninsula in order to save its presence on the Ukrainian banking market and not fall under the international sanctions. But its direct involvement in a major investment projects in the occupied Crimea puts it before an unpleasant dilemma again. Clearly, it is upsetting, but “Sberbank of Russia” knows who to blame…

Commercial blockade

About the Ukrainian business in Crimea.

Of course, in their zeal to quickly push out everything Ukrainian from the peninsula, the occupants have grossly miscalculated the reality, especially when it comes to the price-quality ratio of the Ukrainian food products and the logistics of their delivery to the area. Now they no longer want to give them up too soon since to replace Ukrainian food in Crimea with the more expensive and lesser quality products that are mostly imported is not that easy. Besides, it is impossible to deliver them to the peninsula in the amounts needed by sea.

Under these circumstances, a number of Ukrainian businessmen have got an irresistible desire to continue working in Crimea as if nothing has happened, pretending that the occupation and the annexation do not exist.

Changing that is not difficult. We must immediately demand answers to the basic questions of the government policy on economic activity in the occupied territory. They should have been answered by the corresponding law, which has yet to be presented by the Cabinet to Verkhovna Rada, but instead has been suddenly replaced by a draft of the bill by S.Terehin and K.Lyapina on a fake FEZ.

Let’s review the main questions that urgently require clear and precise answers:

a) what is Ukraine’s position on the cooperation of the domestic and foreign businesses with the occupants in the Crimea (including in the form of taxation); what cases are allowed and what should fall under the Ukrainian sanctions;

b) what types of entrepreneurial activity in the occupied territory does Ukraine consider acceptable for its citizens (for instance, in the critical fields of well-being), and which are unacceptable and therefore, subject to sanctions.

We believe that responsible and patriotic business should be guided by the understanding of the two simple things:

1) paying taxes to the occupants means funding the continuation of the Russian aggression against Ukraine;

2) continuing Ukrainian business in Crimea means discrediting Ukraine’s appeals to other countries to impose tough economic sanctions against the aggressor.

What is business to do?

First of all, realize that the occupation regime is not going to tolerate them for long.

Each Ukrainian label on a pasta box is an anti-Russian propaganda -- that is how they perceive it. It was precisely the goal of pushing Ukrainian business and Ukrainian goods out of Crimea that explains the sudden expulsion of hryvna from circulation a year and a half before the originally announced deadline.

Secondly, to prepare for the exit from Crimea to the mainland.

Certainly, the state policy must work out economic incentives for the Ukrainian entrepreneurs who move their businesses out of Crimea to the other regions of Ukraine.

And in the end of this chapter, once again, on the acceleration of historical time.

We are now eye-witnessing a very interesting process – an accelerated understanding by the Russian occupants of the kind of headache, “a suitcase without a handle” they have annexed on their own free will. An accelerated irritation everywhere, except Moscow, that funds for the "development of Crimea" have to be squeezed out and not simply allocated, in particular, at the cost of the budgets and investment programs of the regions of the Russian Federation. An accelerated understanding by more and more people in Crimea of the grandiose geopolitical scam whose victims they have fallen.

* * *

Naturally, the above is not the entire strategy of Crimea’s return that the "Maidan of Foreign Affairs” experts are working on, but rather a beginning of what we hope will be a wide discussion on the pages of ZN.UA, among others.

In the "active offensive" chapter our experts will analyze the legal blockade of the Russian Federation aimed at getting compensation for our losses from the annexation of the Crimea.

We clearly see the prospect of diplomatic, military and naval isolation of Russia in the Black Sea region as very real.

We propose to revise the nature of Ukraine's participation in the international organizations of the Black Sea Region (BSEC and PABSEC), suggest a new vision for the existing Organization for Democracy and Economic Development GUAM and involve the countries of the "Visegrad Group" and the Baltics in resolving the issue of Crimea’s return.

We call the second block of the strategy -- “the human dimension." It concerns the policy of Ukraine to the different categories of its citizens who reside in Crimea.

We suggest start seeking answers to the new potential threats today. For instance, what to do in a situation when the Russian occupants switch the internet traffic from the Ukrtelecom cable that is being currently used by the providers, to the Rostelecom cable that has been already spanned across the Kerch Strait? Because then Crimea will become a kind of an "information aquarium" where the signal will come only from the "Putin TV." At the same time, Ukrainian sites will be blocked by a click of the mouse and the people will find themselves be in an "electromagnetic reserve."

Also, there is another strategy bloc -- the state and legal dimensions where, among other, we insist that there should be a Cabinet of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Actually, what exactly it will be called within the Cabinet of Ministers’ – a Deputy Prime Minister or a Ministry of the Crimean Affairs – is irrelevant. But the title of that minister or deputy prime minister after a hyphen should also have -- "Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea." It would be precisely the authority that on the one hand, would wage the economic war against the occupants, and on the other, protect the rights of our citizens, both those remaining in the occupied territory and those who have left for the mainland.

Finally, we need to stop hushing “the Crimean Tatar issue" or continue to hide from it, as we have done all those years.

According to the experts who are working on this subject, we need to clearly include in the new Constitution of Ukraine the statement that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is no less than the realization of the rights of the indigenous people of Ukraine, the Crimean Tatars, to self-determination. Finding an exact format that would satisfy all the population groups on the peninsula should not be a problem, there has been a variety of precedents in international practice.

Of course, we can debate any of the identified issues, but what we cannot afford is do nothing for returning the Crimea. In general, we envision a serious comprehensive policy that throughout the period of the occupation, should involve both the state and -- we emphasize -- the civil society. Because if there is no civil component in this strategy, nothing will come out of it, and vice verse. Maidan has proven it.