Hanna Ustinova-Boychenko, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Passenger transportation ensures the development of communication processes in modern society and guarantees a timely and mobile way of interaction between subjects. The proper level of passenger traffic at the local and other levels has become an important indicator of the development of a civilized state, the ability of the governing authorities to ensure an adequate standard of living for the population, as well as the implementation of state standards in the field of transport.
After the “referendum”, the aggressor-State tried, by all possible forces and at any cost, to create a picture of a “prosperous regions” on the Crimean peninsula, but after the attempt at annexation, “Etalons” and “Bogdans” buses of Ukrainian production continued to travel along the streets of Simferopol, which undoubtedly “plagued the eyes” of the leaders of the inviders’ “authorities”. The purchase of a new passenger transport has become one of the “urgent directions” of “improving the life of the Crimeans”.
In January 2015, the head of the Russian Government, Dmitry Medvedev, signed a decree “On the renewal of public transport in Crimea and Sevastopol”. In the same year, an “agreement” was signed with the “State Unitary Enterprise” “Krymavtotrans” on the supply of 140 buses with a total value of 1.377 billion rubles. By April 2016, “Krymavtotrans” had got 110 “LiAZ” buses, there were still less than 30 left, but the “gift” turned out to be so expensive that the “Goravtotrans” “motor transport company in Simferopol” refused to receive buses under a sublease agreement from “Krymavtotrans”, since when buying through the “State Transport Leasing Company” the buses cost 2.5 times more.
In 2018, for Simferopol, they purchased 50 Russian-made “LiAZ” and “NefAZ” buses from the only supplier for the amount of more than 564 million rubles. Funds for their purchase were allocated from the “federal budget”. In November 2018, Sergey Aksyonov promised that the city would buy another 100 large “LiAZ”, spending one billion rubles on it. A little later, the Russia-controlled “authorities” changed their minds and decided to buy another 100 units of passenger transport of medium and small capacity. This order was given by the “head of the administration” of Simferopol Natalya Malenko, specifying that the city has enough large buses. After all these promises and “gifts” in February 2021, the “administration” of Simferopol actually found itself one step away from bankruptcy due to the impossibility of making “lease payments”. In addition, the quality of the purchased transport absolutely does not correspond to that which was previously announced by the representatives of the Russian invaders’ “aurthorities”.
Experts of our Association have repeatedly written about the careless “transport policy” of the Russia-controlled “administration” [1-6]. In particular, it was indicated that “leasing deliveries” of new city buses to Simferopol began after the company “SimCityTrans” of businessman Lenur Islyamov was forcibly expelled from the market, and Mr. Islyamov’s activities had been thoroughly investigated by “ARC”. As a result of the conflict between the Kremlin, the clan of the “head of Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov and Islyamov’s group, the largest passenger carrier was banned from working in Simferopol. Subsequently, in this business conflict, ambiguous events took place with the emergence of backup firms, but at first the “managerial decisions” of the Russian invaders provoked a transport collapse in Simferopol. After all, earlier it was the “SimCityTrans” minibuses that served most of the city’s routes.
“ARC” reported that Sergey Aksyonov and a former militant of the ‘Saylem’ criminal group, Igor Lukashev, who headed the Simferopol “administration” in 2017-2018, traditionally decided to make money on the redistribution of the market. It was noted that Aksyonov’s accomplice in this fraud, Igor Lukashev, a few days after the signing of the “leasing deal”, suddenly “resigned” from the “mayors of Simferopol”, and Igor Dyukov was appointed the nominal “director” of the “Goravtotrans” structure, whom Aksyonov, perhaps, intended to nominate “be guilty of crimes of many thousands”. However, Dyukov did not express a desire to take “every crime on himself” and said in the “prosecutor’s office” that he had been working in “Goravtotrans” from March 30, 2020 and had nothing to do with what had happened before. Dyukov was run by a certain Igor Titarenko, whose namesake Sergei Titarenko was the “deputy head of the administration” of Simferopol until March 2020, and both “officials” named Titarenko “quit” in March 2020.
As the “ARC” experts have already written, primitive techniques are unlikely to help a number of collaborators to avoid big troubles for “theft out of order” on city buses. The Russian monopoly, “State Transport Leasing Company”, was headed by Yevgeny Dietrich, a former Russian transport minister in Dmitry Medvedev’s government. A year ago, the “Association” wrote that it is unlikely that Mr. Dietrich “will forgive” the “administration” of Simferopol for 300 million rubles to be paid in March 2021, especially since 568 million under the “leasing agreement” was “mastered and sawed” not by him, but by him predecessors . The events of 2021 proved that no one really “forgave” anything to anyone.
According to the “program of non-commercial leasing of urban passenger transport for Crimea and Sevastopol”, signed in 2015 by the then Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, equipment manufactured only in Russia should have been purchased on the peninsula, but as it turned out, the main goal of the program was to save Russian enterprises by providing their orders. At the same time, the issue of quality was not raised at all, and therefore almost every bus arrived in Crimea with a significant factory defect . The impression is that the Crimean population, in the opinion of the invaders, does not deserve comfortable and safe conditions for passenger bus transportation. This is not the first time we have seen that the “federal programs” concerning the Crimea are designed only to enrich “businessmen related with the authorities” and to artificially support the “economic growth” of certain regions of Russia itself.
Subsequently, the Russia-controlled “authorities”, nevertheless, began to pay attention to the sad state of passenger traffic on the Crimean peninsula. The main impetus was that the Crimean “government” controlled by Russia “suddenly” found out that free riders were being transported en masse on interregional buses, collecting money from them past the ticket office. The “managerial successes” of the Russian “administration” quickly led to the fact that on the peninsula, where one of the most developed regional transportation markets existed until 2014, there is now an illegal bus schedule at almost every station; many minibuses do not take people to the required stops and carriers violate a number of other requirements.
Allegedly, through appropriate inaction on the initiative of Sergey Aksyonov, Igor Korobchuk was deprived of his post as “director of the state enterprise” “Krymavtotrans” in 2019. As a result of a “thorough check” of the enterprise’s activities by the “Crimean prosecutor’s office”, significant violations were revealed that concerned not only the “shadow” cash register during transportation, but also other aspects that posed a threat to the normal functioning of the “enterprise” and the safety of passenger transportation. However, the real reason for Korobchuk’s dismissal was, according to the Crimean residents, a deep conflict over the distribution of the “gray” funds received in the industry.
Since 2014, the transportation of “illegal passengers” in Crimea has become a “worked out scheme” that has become so entrenched during Russia’s intervention that any attempts by the “authorities” are no longer able to violate the “established order”. “Governmental inspections” showed that “Krymavtotrans” uses unregistered property for commercial purposes, for the acquisition of which funds were allocated, but which “were not put on the balance sheet of the enterprise”.
Only paid toilets at bus stations brought the leaders 1.5 million rubles a month, while not a single toilet “passed according to the documents”, and cash money went into the pockets of various officials of “Krymavtotrans”, who thereby repeated the thorny path of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who made a fortune in public latrines and spawned the slogan “money does not smell”. So it is obvious that for the sake of such essential “toilet” costs the “head of Crimea” himself should express concern about their “overflowing outside his pockets”.
In addition, the “check” revealed that not all settlements are provided with transport and that buses do not reach some villages of the peninsula at all, which makes the Crimean residents get to the highways independently and get further by passing transport. Very often, bus drivers do not take people to the destination indicated on the ticket, and they also refuse transportation to “passengers of privileged categories”. The buses themselves leaving for the trip, despite the purchased hundreds of “new Russian cars”, are not new and cramped, are rarely repaired and have a “suspicious” technical condition . It should be noted that as of 2014, the absence of a bus service in any village or settlement of the Crimea led to an instant and acute scandal, regardless of the names of the then officials. Crimea entered the conditions of the occupation with a generally quite good fleet of vehicles, which, as you can see, was not actually renewed by the occupiers, especially for transportation in rural areas.
At the same time, despite the quality of services, the rise in the cost of travel in city and suburban minibuses was presented by the “team of Sergey Aksyonov” as a great success, and the so-called “Minister of Transport” Sergei Karpov said that “the cost of passenger transportation in the “Republic of Crimea” will remain lower than in other regions of the Southern Federal District” .
Crimean carriers, in their turn, claim that the Russia-controlled “officials” themselves brought the industry to such a state, because they kept an economically unjustified “tariff” for several years, did not engage in subsidies, did not pay “compensation for the transportation of beneficiaries”, did not create infrastructure for drivers, and now they want to solve the problem with one belated increase in “tariffs”. In addition, carriers justify their behavior by the fact that about 30 % of the population uses preferential travel, and about five billion rubles a year are needed to compensate for their transportation. But the Russian invaders’ “administration”, reporting to Moscow on the “complete solution of the transportation problems” for the year allocated up to 1.6 billion rubles, and the rest of the compensation funds “disappeared somewhere”. Carriers believe that proper financing, renewal of the vehicle fleet, viewing schedules and routes, calculating the load is important to overcome the degraded state of the industry, and an increase in “tariffs” will only preserve the current situation .
The difficult situation with “Krymavtotrans”, which controls the bulk of bus transportation in the occupied peninsula, became the reason for the punitive authorities of the Russian invaders to carry out large-scale inspections of “transport services”, but the replacement of the “enterprise management”, of course, did not solve the existing problems .
The fact of mismanagement to the problems of the industry highlighted the scandal around the “municipal unitary enterprise” of Simferopol “Goravtotrans”. At a time when the lack of transport of proper quality caused inconvenience to the Crimean residents, the management of the Simferopol “Goravtotrans” allowed the simple and dismantling of the new buses already mentioned above. In 2019, at the expense of “budgetary funds”, buses were purchased for “Goravtotrans”, but out of 140 new buses – 68 were under the fence and were not used for their intended purpose . As it was already explained above, this situation is primarily due to the massive defects of the supplied equipment, as, secondly, the “enterprise” controlled by the Russian invaders could not repair them, since it had neither the tools and costs, nor the desire.
Inspectors from the Russian invaders’ “administration”, of course, laid all the blame for the destruction of “Goravtotrans” on its “former leaders”, but the problem with vehicles did not become less critical because of this. The Simferopol “city administration” was one step away from bankruptcy, and the Russia-controlled “authorities” of the Crimea could not find a way out of the difficult situation. The city will have to “get out of debt” in the near future, since the “lease” for this bus fleet ends in 2021, and 300 million rubles to pay for the contract must be found somewhere else. As mentioned above, the “ARC” has already written about this situation, and it is worth adding that now the balance of the “administration” of Simferopol rests solely on “federal subsidies”, and Sergey Aksyonov is in no hurry to solve the problem.
More than 50 % of the delivered vehicles continue to stand idle in disrepair, funds for their repair are not allocated, moreover, there is no adequate funding to pay wages to drivers of shuttle buses. At the same time, the Russia-controlled “authorities” spent huge funds for the “demonstrative” and at the same time careless “reconstruction” of the Gagarin Park of Simferopol, for which 30 million rubles will be spent from the “city budget”. In addition to the mismanagement of the Russia-controlled “administration” in the Crimea, the pandemic and quarantine have added problems and, in fact, brought the sphere of passenger transportation to its knees.
The Russian invaders’ “authorities” react to the complaints of the Crimean passengers in the usual format – with promises. Anastasia Volkova, the “head of the transport department of the city administration” of Simferopol, said in an interview on local radio that 50 new buses are planned to be delivered to the city, which will be equipped with “high-tech equipment” and that they will replace the outdated fleet of yellow buses. However, many experts suggest that such events, even if they take place, will be implemented by reducing the “funds allocated for major repairs and construction”, as well as by “selling” urban real estate .
The sad situation of passenger traffic is also observed in other cities of the Crimea. In February 2019, a meeting of the “highest echelons of the Crimean government” was held in Kerch, at which Sergey Aksyonov sharply criticized the work of public transport, including trolleybuses. The “minister of transport of the Republic” informed the “head of Crimea” that instead of seven trolleybuses, three or four units of electric transport have been on the line every day, but on the day of the meeting, not a single trolleybus went out on the road at all.
Sergei Karpov suggested “to create a branch of the “Krymtrolleybus” in Kerch, since the city cannot cope”. The “management” of the transport sector of the “administration” of the city, of course, did not want to lose the levers of power and promised to “solve the problem” within one or two weeks (which has not happened in full until now). In addition, while discussing the technical condition of the “municipal buses”, the emphasis was made on the fact that due to the lack of working rolling stock at the “Kerchgortrans” enterprise, the movement interval is not observed and there was an overestimation of the cost of consumables and spare parts .
A week later, instead of finding ways to solve the problematic issue and develop urban passenger transportation, the issue of the further work of electric transport in Kerch was considered at a meeting by the “working group for the provision of transport services to the population”. The members of the “commission” made a decision to “terminate the operation of trolleybuses due to wear and tear of equipment and the impossibility of further repairs” . Indeed, why repair it when you can simply close it, sell what is left, and people can walk by foot where they want without buses. In the end, the “authorities” acquired several trolleybuses for passenger transportation in Kerch and, as always, promised to allocate funds for the normal organization of passenger transportation of the population .
Abandonment, depression, devastation – this is how you can characterize the sphere of urban transport in the modern Crimea. The Russia-controlled “authorities” only promise to “update”, “repair”, “modernize” and ‘improve” the state of such an important area as passenger transport links. Taking into account the special geographical position and natural-historical uniqueness of Crimea, it requires the same attitude to the organization of transportation. Promises and an artificially created “picture of welfare” cannot replace a comfortable life for the Crimean population, therefore, methods of solving transport problems require a slightly different approach.