Anna Ustinova-Boychenko, Candidate of Law, Associate Professor

Children are the future of the state, which must create all the necessary conditions for their proper development. Preschool education creates the necessary training base for future pupils and students, is an important stage for the holistic development of the child and it is aimed at the implementation of the educational and upbringing tasks. Attending kindergarten by a child is necessary not only for the child’s development, it is another tool of child’s socialization, and it is an opportunity to work for parents. The Russia-controlled “administration” of the Crimea constantly promises and declares that funds for the construction and repair of preschool educational institutions are allegedly allocated enough, but are they really so? Almost from the very beginning of Russia’s occupation of the Crimea, its “authorities” began to change the number of preschool educational institutions, “justifying” it by various circumstances.

As of February 2014, there were communal preschools and privately owned institutions on the peninsula, which the Russian invaders began to create all sorts of problems. For example, the “Breeze” kindergarten in Feodosia was privately owned, and after the “lease of the land on which it is located” expired, the “local authorities” refused to continue it. The parents’ concern of the “Breeze’s” pupils was caused by the fact that according to unofficial information, the Russian invaders wanted to build multi-storey residential buildings on the site of the mentioned preschool educational institution.

At the same time, there is another institution on the territory of this kindergarten that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of visually impaired children, which could have disappeared together with the kindergarten. The new “local authorities” constantly interfered in the institution’s activities, forcing it to increase the number of places in kindergarten, despite the fact that the “license volume”, due to the specialization of the institution, was not more than 40 pupils. The Russian invaders carried out constant “unscheduled inspections”, which for a long time was pressure from the “local authorities” to close the preschool.

Prior to the occupation, the Center for medical and social rehabilitation of disabled children and treatment of visually impaired children on the basis of “Breeze” kindergarten was directly provided in the contract for the lease of kindergarten’s municipal property to create a private kindergarten for visually impaired children. Therefore, the importance of such institutions for citizens was obvious. The reason for the new claims against the kindergarden, which occupied an attractive plot of land, on both sides of which the construction of high-rise buildings has already begun, was also obvious. Therefore, the reason for the liquidation of the kindergarten “Breeze” and the corresponding red tape in the “courts” was almost a hectare of land under the institution [1]; [2].

In Sevastopol in 2014 invaders also began the “harassment” of private kindergartens by Russia-controlled “local authorities”, which was not even stopped by long queues at kindergartens in the city, by the lack of the necessary number of places for all comers. Therefore, the existence of private educational institutions was threatened. The management of private preschools began to face considerable difficulties in “drawing up documentation”, passing a large number of “inspections”, as well as in “licensing certain types of educational activities”. For example, the private bilingual kindergarten “Leopold” became the object of “harassment” with constant “checks” by “auditors” of dubious competence, of dissemination of false information about the preschool’s activities. The Russia-controlled “authorities” in Sevastopol did not have sufficient grounds to close the preschool, so information began to appear that the kindergarten was allegedly closed by a “court decision”, which was not true. “Leopold” was able to resist the “administration” for some time, but a large number of private preschools have been closed since 2014 due to difficulties in obtaining a “license” and artificially created financial problems. That is, it happened due to the aggressor’s policy of deliberate destruction of Crimean private preschools [3].

But not only the attitude of the Russian “powers” to the private educational institutions’ functioning makes deeply concerning, but also in general their relations with the logistics of children’s institutions. This is massive due to the provision of repair and construction functions to unscrupulous organizations. By example, the “Yalta city court” passed a “sentence” on the head of the Simferopol construction organization “Krymbudmontazh” Yevhen Krasilov and for his deputy Serhiy Dokashenko. These persons, instead of carrying out construction and repair work of the kindergarten, paid for “positive approval of acts of work” in the preschool educational institution in the village of Katsiveli, that performed incompletely and in violation of any rules [4]. Of course, this “sentence” has not changed the sad state of the kindergarten itself, and it is only a reflection of the general trend of “repairs” of preschool education institutions in the Crimea.

The general Russia-controlled “administration’s” careless attitude to the children’s safety is outrageous, but it is common for the invaders not to care much about the normal development of childhood in the peninsula. Appropriating “budget funds” in fantastic amounts, compared to the situation before 2014, has become a routine for most Crimean key “officials”, and therefore the topic of building preschools is no exception. After all, the Russia-controlled “authorities” not only allow mass theft of “budget funds” during construction and repair work on preschool education facilities; they generally “close their eyes” during the construction of a modular kindergarten in Alushta.

A new kindergarten was to be built there at the expense of “budget funds”, but the money simply “disappeared”. Instead of taking appropriate measures, the “head of the capital construction and housing and communal services department of the Alushta town administration” concluded additional “agreements”, which led to the transfer of “budget funds” to the “contractor” who did not even present the project. Same as in the Katsiveli case, further loud statements about “criminal cases” against “switchmen” did not contribute to the construction of a kindergarten [5]. After all, the head of the “contractor”, having received in accordance with the “municipal contract” from the “administration” of Alushta 50 million rubles, constructed the building that can not be put into operation as a kindergarten [6].

Crimean “officials” are constantly making loud statements that they are allegedly worried about the completion of unfinished preschools and they promise to build them in the near future, but the problem remains unresolved. For example, the Crimean “Minister of construction and architecture” stated that as of 2020, there are about 20 unfinished children’s preschools in the Crimea, work on which has not been conducted for a long time. He named the reason as unscrupulous “contractors” who used the advance given to them and actually lost “budget funds”. The “minister” promised to resume construction and “allocate new funds” [7], apparently with the same result in the future. The relevant promises are considered by the “Crimean leaders” to be very “reasonable”, as the construction of some preschools has been frozen since 2014 and the Russia-controlled “authorities” need to distract the Crimean population.

The long-suffering preschool in the Kerch district of “Marat-2” is a good example, which began to be built before the Russian invasion to the Crimea. He became an instrument of successful “budget funds” usage by the development structures, controlled by the “Crimean speaker” Volodymyr Konstantinov and at the same time this object became a tool of “pleasing the eyes” of the Crimean residents. Until 2014, Konstantinov-controlled firm “SK Consol-Stroy” spent UAH 5 million in advance, as it allegedly laid the foundation and “finished” the facility, which did not actually happen. Later, the Main Department of Capital Construction under the Council of Ministers of the AR of Crimea, on the recommendation of the prosecutor’s office, sued “Consol” for these funds and received a court’s decision in its favor, but it did not have time to withdraw funds from Konstantinov due to the occupation of the Crimea started.

After the Russian invasion began, “Consol” organized the “cancellation of the court decision” by providing fictitious accounting documents about the alleged “targeted spending of the advance”. And a few years later the “Crimean Department of Capital Construction”, as the Russia-controlled “successor” of the Main Department of Capital Construction under the Council of Ministers, announced the “purchase of construction” of a new kindergarten in the same place, in “Marat-2”. The “purchase” took place without any “competition” and the Simferopol firm “KS Company” was chosen as the “construction contractor”, which was quickly founded three days before the “signing of the contract”. It raises many questions that the company with a “charter capital” of 10 thousand rubles received an “order” for 267.65 million rubles. In addition, re-payment of already partially performed works was envisaged. It is also unclear how “KS Company” will have time to fulfill this “order”, as at the same time this company received, without any competition, another “order”, for the construction of a primary school block with an assembly hall in Yalta’s “School of the Future” for 243,5 million rubles [8].

How this long-suffering children’s preschool was “built” in the Kerch’s “Marat-2” district became clear a year later, as the “capital construction service” began searching again for a “contractor” who was supposed to complete a kindergarten for Kerch children. Information was posted on the “official website of public procurement” in 2018, that the “contract price” is 180.57 million rubles. Works on the construction of this children’s institution were stopped and “preserved” on the eve of its “delivery”, which was scheduled for December 2017. [9] A year later, the situation with regard to this children’s preschool educational institution with 260 places has not changed. In August 2019, the “construction readiness” of the kindergarten was 30%. The “Minister of construction and architecture of the Republic of Crimea” then stated that the project is “in the process of adjusting the design and estimate documentation”, which they wanted to complete in 2019, and the kindergarten’s “commissioning” was promised in early 2021 [10].

But in September 2021, it was not the opening of a children’s institution in “Marat-2” blocks, but again the “official opening” of its construction was announced. “Head of Crimea” Serhiy Aksenov indicated by his “order” the only “contractor” for the kindergarten, and the “Yugservis” company became lucky, which now has to complete construction and installation work “Construction of a preschool educational organization in Marat-2 district of Kerch for 260 places”. This time the cost of the “contract” amounted to 350.27 million rubles, and construction is promised to be completed by the end of March 2024 [11].

It is sad to analyze this situation, but it is even sadder to monitor the closure of the preschools by the Russian invaders. The only kindergarten in the Ordzhonikidze settlement, which was attended by more than 70 children, was closed. Ordzhonikidze is small in population, and in recent years the number of children who need a pre-school education has fallen sharply. Therefore, part of the buildings of the local preschool institution was leased, and the tenants were obliged to complete the missing space. The tenants did not finish the construction, but at the same time they violated the foundation of the main kindergarten’s building, due to which the floor in the food block of the garden collapsed. Due to this situation, parents were forced to turn to various authorities for help. “Help” was not delayed, because the “prosecutor’s office” conducted “inspections”, after which the children were first concentrated in one of the “least dangerous” wings of the emergency kindergarden’s building, and two months later the preschool was closed at all [12].

Thus, it is easier for the Russian invaders’ “administration” to close and ban preschool institutions if the theft of funds for their construction and repair “does not work”. At the same time, the Crimean Russia-controlled media are full of headlines about planning the construction of kindergartens, about the “government’s care” for preschoolers, about the insane “budget funds” for the reconstruction of kindergartens, and so on. But at the same time, cases of epic “construction” of “Marat-2” kindergarten, systemic artificial obstacles to the private kindergartens’ work, the closure of a single Ordzhonikidze preschool, indicate in common the contradiction between the promises and actions of the Russia-controlled Crimean “authorities”.

In normal societies, children are the future, and smart and developed children are the key to sustainable development of communities and regions.

But alas this does not apply to the Russia-occupied Crimea.