In early February 2021, the Crimean residents began to discuss the statement of “Deputy Prime Minister” Eugeny Kabanov on the repair of berths for 5 billion rubles at the same time as another scandal in the “port of Yalta”. Ship-owners, who have become accustomed to the Ukrainian degree of freedom in business, are outraged by the attempt to introduce a new type of tribute in the form of a

“QR-passport of the port for passengers”.

The statement of Yevgeny Kabanov, planned by the Russian security forces for “degreasing” already [1], is a repetition of the old Russian “methodic” of “revival of maritime transport in the Crimea”. As “ARC” has already reported, the previous statement of the occupiers with the promise to “repair all berths” from Sudak to Foros by October 2020 turned out to be a bluff. Instead, during the years of occupation, the berths in Mishor, Alupka, Alushta, Sudak and other coastal villages were completely destroyed [2]. Therefore, Kabanov’s statement with claims to the “skillful utilization” of 5 billion rubles for the “reconstruction of berths” does not look serious.

However, Kabanov’s other statement, about construction of yacht marinas in the Crimea deserves some attention. Russian President’s accomplices, Rothenbergs and Kovalchuks have long lobbied for the transformation of Crimean resorts into closed yacht clubs for Russia’s impartial elite, with the prospect of forcibly evicting unnecessary “aborigines” from the “first line” of seashore. “Speaker of the State Council” Vladymyr Konstantinov directly stated in 2017 that the Crimean residents are service personnel only, who should live in the resorts of the peninsula no closer than on the “fourth line” from the sea.

The new scandal in the “port of Yalta” was the result of such a strategy of the occupiers. Small and medium-sized businesses are the main threat to the regime of the Russian Federation, so it is being repressed. In the resort of Yalta, degraded during the years of occupation, maritime voyages along the coast until 2021 remained the only acceptable entertainment, available to a wide range of people. Against the background of all other small businessmen, the owners of private pleasure boats are trying to make money. But incomes from them are taken by the sanction-list “enterprise”, controlled by occupiers “Crimean Sea Ports”, represented by “port of Yalta” as its “branch”, in which clan of “the head of the Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov established a rigid vertical of extortions.

In 2016-2017, Denis Volkov, a protégé of a group of veterans of the Russian secret services, was the “director of the port of Yalta”. He demanded that all ship-owners working from the berths of the “port” pay him personally and in cash 25% of all their profits. This caused outrage among entrepreneurs who had never encountered it before. Volkov was “released from the post” due to attempts to seize part of the Yalta embankment and of the “Swallow’s Nest” port checkpoint in order to open their own cafes, that was not coordinated with the “Crimean leadership”. At the same time, this “director” fought for a “place near the feeder” in eccentric ways, sending his lawyers to the “court” with a request to postpone the date of the “sitting” due to “treatment by Dmitry Volkov of sexually transmitted diseases” [4].

As a result, the “head of the Crimea” Aksyonov replaced Volkov with Roman Podsudevsky, Odessa-runaway customs officer, that wanted by Ukrainian law enforcement officers for corruption, of disclosure of state secrets and for desertion, [3]. Scandals between the “port” and businessmen continued, but sea voyages resumed. It allows us to suggest that the ship-owners and Podsudevsky reached an agreement on the amount of “tribute” from the profits for the right to work at sea. But since the real goal of the occupiers was not so much corruption enrichment as the destruction of independent business, in addition to paying tribute to “port directors”, the “government” began to introduce absurd additional “official payments”. This, taking into account the tribute to “officials”, made the maritime business increasingly unprofitable.

In response, the ship-owners declared a “strike” and suspended the sea voyages. After that, temporary compromises were reached, because the occupiers were painful about the lack of sea communication on the Southern coast of Crimea, not in the form of business, but as propaganda “pictures”. After all, without the usual pleasure boats for the Crimea, the “native harbor” looked more and more depressed and miserable even in summer.

However, the invaders’ “port administration” gradually aggravated the situation. In the spring of 2019, a “fare” was introduced for boarding and disembarking passengers at 50 rubles per person, and this made the maritime small cruise business meaningless. Ship-owners appealed to the “courts”. Having passed the Crimean “legal instances” that are not present even in the Russian official registers, they reached Kaluga, where the Arbitration Court of the Central District, which “supervises the Crimea”, “recognized their demands”. This arbitration “determined” that the “Yalta port” is trying to raise funds for the second time for the same “services” that they already covered by “paying the berth fee”. Moreover, the Kaluga court ruled that all “tariffs are set by orders at the federal level” and that this issue “does not fall within the jurisdiction of a particular port”.

After that, the people of the “head of the Crimea” Sergei Aksyonov’s clan apparently mentioned that even under Russian law, Crimea is Ukraine, and they did not comply with the decision of the Russian arbitration court. The “Yalta port” under their control continued to collect “tribute” in cash, as well as to take new, absurd “official payments”. In the conditions of repressions, which intensified in 2020 by the Russian invaders, ship-owners did not risk freedom and aggravated the relations with the occupying “port administration”; they worked the 2020 season to their detriment, for the sake of the “picture” they were demanded to make. Developing such “success”, the Yalta “port” has now announced the introduction of a “rule” according to which all ship-owners are required in 2021 for each passenger on each trip to buy a “QR-passport of the Yalta port” for 60 rubles. To do this, booths for “QR-control” are already building on Yalta berths.

If ship-owners comply with this requirement, the prices of sea voyages will be even higher. Certainly it is not the fact, that the maritime business will be able to survive the Crimean summer – 2021. The strategic goal of what is happening is clear, because the occupiers need to stifle the remnants of small and medium-sized “aboriginal” business that lasted during the years of occupation. Then the obvious step will be to “remove” the declining infrastructure and to rule out the possibility of sea travel for “commoners” so that they cannot “admire” the palaces and yachts of the Kovalchuks and Rothenbergs, as well as Putin’s Crimean dachas.

However, the deep crisis in Russia itself, the occupiers’ mismanagement in the water and sanitation issues and the intensification of landslides on the Southern coast of Crimea make the prospects of the occupiers very vague in the near future. It is known from our sources that the occupiers froze the “re-registration” of looted land plots of the Yalta cargo port. The risks of the fall of the Russian occupation regime are now being actively discussed on the sidelines of the Crimean “government”, with extremely bleak prospects for the “team of the Crimean Spring winners”.

Eugen Gaivoronsky