In 2014, the Russian Federation (RF) occupied the Crimean peninsula and declared it as “Russia’s territory”. Almost every media outlet of the aggressor state says that the state spares no money and allocates hundreds of billions of rubles to fight the acute respiratory disease COVID-19 “on the territory of the Russian Federation”. Finding out the actual picture of the necessary funds to combat COVID-19 and to finance the medical sector of the occupied Crimea during the coronavirus pandemic turned out to be a difficult task, since the occupation “powers” deliberately underestimated the spread of the dangerous disease.

In accordance with the norms of international law, in particular the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949 on the Protection of Civilian Population in Time of War, the RF, as an occupying state, must fully provide residents of the occupied territories with the provision of medical services, treatment, health care in medical institutions on on the same level as the citizens of the RF [1]. In November 2020, the Russia’s “government” of the Crimea allegedly allocated more than 96 million rubles to fight the COVID-19 disease. And the federal Government of the RF allegedly allocated an additional 72 million rubles for the purchase of medicines. At the beginning of September 2020, 15 million rubles were allegedly provided for equipping laboratories in the Crimea, and at the end of October 2020 an additional 15.7 million rubles were allocated [2]. Certain funds to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 were allegedly provided by individual (non-state) legal entities [3].

Part of these funds should be directed to additional payments to medical workers who risk their lives to save sick patients. But are these payments really being made? Promising help and compensation for the additional risk, the “officials” of the occupation “power” are creating a kind of “front” that doctors must storm in order to receive the funds owed to them. For example, in October 2020, employees of the Crimea’s “Republican Children’s Clinical Hospital” did not receive their salaries due to them. The “chief physician” of this medical institution at his “disposal” justified the termination of all additional incentive payments (bonuses and allowances) “by the existing shortage of funds” and the need to purchase medicines necessary for the hospital’s existence. Wages (an integral part of which are bonuses and allowances) always had to be the basic guarantee for the employee, and the funds planned for the payment of wages could not be used for other purposes. But not in the Russia-occupied Crimea. Scandals on the payment of premiums to medical workers arise constantly, and the occupation “powers” always finds “excuses” for their illegal actions. The “head” of the “Crimean Center for Disaster Medicine and Emergency Medicine” explained to the claims of doctors of this “Crimean Center” that “the doctors heard about payments on TV and projected these figures onto themselves.” In this case, the punitive “authorities” of the RF allegedly tried to “help” medical workers to receive all the payments they needed, but above all – in the mode of their loud statements [4].

In May 2021, Sergey Aksyonov, at a meeting of the Russian-controlled “Crimean Parliament”, reported on the alleged provision of “incentive and additional payments” to medical workers providing medical care to patients with COVID-19 in the amount of more than 1,360 million rubles, focusing on the fact that such funds were directed specifically at payments to medical workers [5]. However, in real life, outside the walls of the “parliament”, during the entire time of the pandemic, disputes arose between medical workers and the occupying “power” over unfulfilled promises on payments. Risking their lives and health, not having the promised medical equipment, protection and medical supplies, the doctors of the occupied Crimea continued to do their job with dignity, but the payments due to them remained solely at the level of loud statements by collaborators and occupiers.

A large number of Crimean hospitals that have not been redesigned for COVID-19 have never received additional payments. All statements about “covid” payments were made in such a way as to enable “officials” to profit from it, while simultaneously feeling complete impunity. In one of the Feodosia medical centers, for example, a scandal arose over the fact that the “chief physician” of this medical institution posted information on its “official website” about full settlement with medical workers who had the right to receive additional funds in connection with work with patients with COVID-19.

Such information did not correspond to reality, and after mass complaints of medical workers, the “chief doctor” himself admitted this and noted that the funds were allegedly “received by the polyclinic”, although this also did not correspond to reality. One of the employees of a medical institution in the city of Feodosia, Irina Danilovich, having a direct relationship to the difficult situation of payments, believes that medical workers receive bonuses only as a result of outright indignation, sending letters and complaints to “officials” of different levels, and primarily due to the spread of similar information about the situation on the Internet. Despite the presence of such complaints, “prosecutorial inspections”, and a significant public outcry, the officials of the occupation “power” continue to “officially declare” about “full settlement” with the Crimean medical workers [6].

Loud statements on the provision of personal protective equipment to physicians in the performance of their duties also do not correspond to reality. In the “Simferopol Clinical Hospital of Emergency Medical Care No. 6”, medical workers independently provide themselves with masks. There are reports that the medical staff of this hospital receives antiseptics and masks only thanks to volunteer help from the Crimeans [7]. Against this background, the behavior of some “officials” looks like a mockery of the Crimean doctors. The visit of the so-called “Minister of Health of Crimea” to the “Simferopol Hospital No. 7” caused a resonance, since the protective suit that the “official” was wearing turned out to be ten times more expensive, of better quality and safer than those received by the medical workers of this very hospital who work with patients with COVID-19 [4].

So, the statements of the occupation “authorities” in Crimea about “channeling funds” to the fight against COVID-19 do not help the Crimean population to fight the disease. Many people face the problem of the lack of promised medical services and drugs, being left alone with a complex disease. Having received a positive result for COVID-19, residents of the occupied Crimea are forced to self-medicate, using the experience of those who were able to overcome the fatal disease on their own [8].

Against the background of the lack of assistance to sick patients, the behavior of “officials” of “health care structures” looks extremely challenging. For example, in July 2020, the news was spread in the media of Sevastopol that “the Sevastopol Health Department is now located at a new address on st. Simferopolskaya, 2 Personal receptions of citizens are still limited”. The new premises of this “department” are really new, it is a newly built modern five-story building. At the same time, when hospitals are closed in the city because of the pandemic, medical workers do not receive full wages, do not have adequate protection, equipment, medicines, such behavior of “officials” in setting up a comfortable office for themselves caused outrage and condemnation from side of the population of the occupied peninsula [9].

Instead of purchasing medical transport, which is in short supply everywhere, the officials of the “Sevastopol Health Department” announced a “tender” for the purchase of two “Peugeot Traveler” cars designed to transport these very “officials” [10]. The Russian-controlled mass media on the Internet predominantly glorify the occupation “powers”. However, numerous appeals by Crimean doctors about non-receipt of payments due to them, the facts of building new offices and purchasing new cars for “officials” show the true attitude of the “authorities” of the occupied peninsula to its population, reveal the indifference, audacity and cynical attitude of the invaders towards the residents of Crimea.

Anna Ustinova-Boychenko, Ph.D., Associate Professor