Since the occupation of Crimea in 2014, Europe and the United States have imposed significant financial and economic sanctions on Russia. The whole world sided with Ukraine and condemned the actions of Russia, which cynically invaded the territory of a sovereign, independent state. However, most of these sanctions were imposed just after the start of Russia’s open large-scale war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022. In total, more than 6,000 sanctions have been imposed on Russia since 2014, essentially isolating that country from the civilized world [1].

Most of the sanctions concern the economic sector and are aimed at restricting banking operations, foreign trade, and technology imports. Despite the relatively short duration of such sanctions, they have already been felt by all Russians, as well as by residents of the Russia-occupied territories. Crimea, which is completely under the control of the self-proclaimed “government”, is no exception. Experts from our Association analyzed the impact of such sanctions on the occupied Ukrainian peninsula.

First of all, it should be noted that information about the possible start of the war began to come from concerned Crimean residents in late January this year. Locals said that representatives of Russia’s “military enlistment offices” began actively campaigning for graduates of the so-called “Crimean Federal University” to sign “contracts” and join the “special forces”. The main argument of such agitators is “high wages”, which are almost impossible to get on the occupied peninsula. In addition, Russian military personnel and numerous military equipment began to arrive in the Crimea.

Probably even then, the Kremlin decided to replenish its army with Crimean youth, who in fact have no experience of participating in hostilities. Experts note that the occupation of Crimea by 2022 cost Russia more than $ 500 billion, which the economy of the aggressor state did not receive as a result of the sanctions. But even that did not stop the Kremlin, which has waged a bloody war against independent Ukraine.

Russia is ready to throw the citizens of Ukraine living on the occupied peninsula into hell, and it is also very worried about its own citizens. Thus, on March 10, when it became clear that the so-called “special operation” had failed, the families of Russian special services and punitive officers began to be actively deported from the Crimea. At the same time, panic began in the real estate market, as the occupiers are rapidly selling apartments and leaving the peninsula [4]. Most likely, the zeal of the Ukrainian armed forces frightened the occupiers, who felt the possible rapid deoccupation of Crimea.

Under such conditions, ordinary Crimeans were left face to face with destructive sanctions, which the occupiers for some reason do not want to feel. It should be noted that the occupied Crimea began to feel the effect of these sanctions in the first days of March 2022. It was at this time that food and some other goods began to disappear from the shelves of Crimean supermarkets. Information about the total deficit began to come simultaneously from several sources.

In particular, according to the Ukrainian President’s Mission in the AR of Crimea, in many cities of the occupied peninsula there are empty shelves in shops, and some first-hand goods are sold in limited quantities. This applies to sugar, cereals, flour and other foods. According to experts, this is due to the fact that the Crimean residents do not trust the Russian economy and the self-proclaimed “government”, and therefore began to actively stock up on everything possible. Some insiders even point out that some Crimean inhabitants buy food and to feed the Ukrainian military, who will liberate the peninsula.

It should be noted that some goods (auto parts, household appliances, construction materials) are becoming more expensive in the Crimea every day, and their number is significantly limited. At this time, the self-proclaimed “government” began to actively agitate the Crimean residents to open online cards of the Russian payment system “Mir” [5]. This demonstrates the inability of local pro-Russian officials to stabilize the situation and provide Crimean residents with everything they need.

In this case, the self-proclaimed “government” is doing what it has always done in critical situations: justifying itself and the Kremlin, and blaming the people. For example, Sergey Aksyonov has already stated that the deficit and rising prices for food and household goods are not the result of sanctions or the crisis in Russia, but of the “deliberate overpricing”, from 60 to 200 %, by individual entrepreneurs. That is, it is supposedly “ordinary speculation”, which is “unfounded, and with which the government will fight” [6].

Most likely, Mr. Aksonov does not understand the algorithm of financial and economic sanctions at all, otherwise he would not have made such absurd statements. Approximately the same rhetoric of the “head of Crimea” on the attitude to the problem of shortage of medical drugs on the occupied peninsula, including foreign production, which have become sanctioned. He notes that “the fall of the ruble is useless here”, because it is a matter of “speculation” [7]. In fact, it is a kind of universal excuse that does not solve the problem.

By the way, the Crimean residents have already felt the rise in prices of medicines by almost 30 %, and this is not the limit, because the stocks of drugs are running out in warehouses. Crimean residents who have severe chronic diseases and need systemic medical support are particularly affected. Note that the self-proclaimed “government” has an answer to this. Thus, the so-called “minister of health of the Republic of Crimea”, controlled by the aggressor, stated that the population “artificially creates a shortage of drugs” by buying them in large quantities. To solve the problem, this “miserable official” proposes to limit the sale of drugs and oblige pharmacies to keep prices [8].

This is another example of a complete lack of understanding of the situation and lack of experience in solving problems. At the same time, ordinary Crimean residents suffer the most, who cannot seek medicine in mainland Ukraine due to active hostilities. However, food and medicine are not the only manifestations of the impact of the aggression on the occupied Crimea.

In particular, after the start of a large-scale war against Ukraine and the imposition of new sanctions, there was a shortage of cash currency of third countries on the peninsula. Currently, “banks” in the Crimean cities do not accept “applications for the purchase of currency” from individuals, and in some “banks” there is no currency at all for “legal entities”. Even in this situation, representatives of Russian “banks”, following the example of the authorities, explained the problem very “quickly”. For example, Oleg Vyugin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of “MDM Bank”, said that the currency deficit was due to “logistics difficulties”. Allegedly, “Crimean residents bought a lot of currency”, and it “just did not have time to deliver to the peninsula”. And in general, the banker added, “banks are not forced to sell currency if they do not want to do so” [9].

In fact, it is a kind of parallel reality in which respect for the minimum human needs seems to be an unnecessary element. The main thing is to “justify” the Kremlin curators and blame the entire population, which bears most of the material losses. In particular, due to Russian aggression, the money transfer system is currently paralyzed, as a result of which Crimean residents can’t receive money from their relatives or employers in other countries.

But the problems of the Crimean inhabitants due to the imposition of sanctions against Russia do not end there. Immediately after the military invasion, there was a shortage of fuel on the occupied peninsula [10]. In mainland Ukraine, there are also queues at gas stations, but the war continues and thousands of civilians are forced to move to other, more dangerous cities and regions. What prevents the self-proclaimed “government” from providing the Crimean residents with fuel when Russia has huge oil reserves. This is a rather rhetorical question, as it is clear that the fuel is currently directed by the aggressor to military needs.

It is difficult to find logic in the actions of the occupying “powers”, which invents meaningless ways to overcome sanctions. Thus, the “senator from the Crimea” collaborator Olga Kovitidi proposed to introduce a “moratorium on the bankruptcy of tour operators on the peninsula”. She simply wants to forbid tour operators to stop their activities. Then the question arises: how and at what cost they should work in conditions when most of the civilized states have closed their airspace to the aggressor. In fact, tour operators must imitate some tumultuous activity, without receiving any profit, and spend the last money to pay “taxes to the Crimean budget”.

It seems that the self-proclaimed “government” of Crimea has chosen the tactic of seeing the positive even where no one will look for it. How else to explain Aksyonov’s statements about anti-Russian sanctions. In particular, he stated that sanctions against Russia “will benefit Crimea” due to the fact that sanctioned “banks” that did not previously operate on the peninsula, will come to the region [12].

It should be noted that such a statement was made immediately after the Russia’s State Duma offered Russian banks that came under sanctions to “legalize in the Crimea”. According to Russian deputies, “all deterrents have been offset by sanctions, and now banks can operate safely”. However, even Russian experts do not advise to hurry, because there are a few points. First, sanctions may be tightened, which could lead to the bank’s bankruptcy. Second, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions that are not the same for all Russian banks, so those wishing to work in the occupied territories of Ukraine may regret it even more. Probably such “brilliant plans” to “develop the banking sector of Crimea” at the expense of sanctions can come to mind only to Russian politicians and collaborators.

It should be reminded that Russian-controlled Crimean “officials” have no right to make independent decisions and act exclusively in the interests of the Kremlin. Aksyonov’s threats in response to the nationalization of Russian property in Ukraine and arrests in other countries and the “nationalization” of Ukrainian and foreign property located in the Crimea were further evidence of this [14]. The meaning of this statement is not entirely clear, as international companies have long since left the occupied peninsula, and Ukraine’s public property has already been “nationalized” in 2014-2016.

Therefore, such statements should for the most part be perceived as the helplessness of the occupying “power”, which feels the fragility of its position, but can do nothing and is forced to submit to the Kremlin curators. In such conditions, ordinary Crimean residents are simply hostages of the situation and forced to look for ways to survive. Some of the locals have been trying to go to Russia at least since the beginning of the war, as they cannot return to mainland Ukraine due to the occupation of certain territories of the Kherson Region.

Those who find themselves in the occupied territories have to adapt to the new realities in which they woke up on the morning of February 24, 2022. In particular, many problems arise with payment systems that have stopped working on the peninsula. Today, some Crimean residents are trying to circumvent these restrictions through private VPNs. However, in the conditions of sanctions, Crimea’s inhabitants who work remotely in international companies suffer losses. We are talking about the “middle class” of the Crimean residents, which is obviously not pro-Russian. Such citizens cannot withdraw their salaries [15].

The local population of the occupied Crimea was not ready for such total restrictions, and was forced to leave the peninsula. Indeed, young people who are accustomed to buying appliances and things in foreign online stores, using payment systems and traveling will not expect a change in the situation. In view of this, many Crimean activists note that anti-Russian sanctions have not yet fully hit the few collaborators who called on Russia to “come and save” the peninsula from Ukraine [15].

It should be assumed that the occupied Crimea has fully experienced anti-Russian sanctions, which have negatively affected all spheres of public life. Forecasts in this sense are not very rosy. The remnants of the national economy on the peninsula will inevitably feel the lack of foreign spare parts and components for machinery and production equipment, which will lead to the destruction of medium-sized businesses that remained in the Crimea. Sanctions can also destroy small businesses.

Thus, the ban on the supply of imported goods and technologies will force many entrepreneurs to close their stores and services. This mainly applies to household appliances, software, automotive products, etc. Most likely, the only way out of this situation will be the forced growth of trade with Russian satellites, as well as other self-proclaimed entities. It should be noted that this is what the aggressor State has been striving for for the last eight years. Sanctions will inevitably reduce the income of the citizens of the peninsula, as prices for all groups of goods are rising rapidly. The sphere of social services will also suffer. Of course, the sanctions will also affect the cultural life of the occupied peninsula, as non-Russian content will be unavailable. In turn, this significantly intensifies Russian propaganda, which will fill this niche.

Summing up, we note that large-scale Russian aggression has led to new sanctions, and therefore brought even more problems to the peninsula, in addition to those that Russia has brought since 2014. Russia’s isolation will inevitably lead to the isolation of its occupied territories, which, although Ukrainian, are fully affected by the Kremlin’s aggressive policies. The spread of Russian “powers”, banking, financial and credit and regulatory systems in these territories makes it impossible to separate them from the package of sanctions imposed.

Thus, the citizens of Ukraine will be forced to suffer even more for the actions of the Russian occupiers, who are not interested in it at all. They are accustomed to sacrificing everything for the sake of questionable “greatness and leadership”, which is needed only for their self-affirmation. For Ukraine, this could mean an even greater economic gap with these territories at the time of deoccupation. However, the reality is that we need to go through this difficult path and, despite all the difficulties, become a developed European state.

Sources:

1. https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2022/03/14/novyna/polityka/2014-roku-proty-rosiyi-zaprovadyly-6366-sankczij-kuleba

2. https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/krym-pidhotovka-rosiyi-do-viyny/31671009.html

3. https://www.dw.com/uk/hudkov-krym-i-donbas-koshtuvaly-moskvi-500-miliardiv-dolariv/a-57826773

4. https://economics.segodnya.ua/ua/economics/realty/v-krymu-okkupanty-vyvozyat-semi-i-massovo-prodayut-kvartiry-na-poluostrove-panika-1608012.html

5. https://stopcor.org/u-krymu-znykayut-produkty-ale-staye-bilshe-vijskovyh/

6. https://ua.krymr.com/a/krym-viyna-ukrainy-i-rosii-produkty-cherha-tsiny/31745877.html

7. https://ru.krymr.com/a/voyna-rossii-protiv-ukrainy-krym-defitsit-lekarstv/31748393.html

8. https://simferopol.bezformata.com/

9. https://www.unian.net/economics/finance/1023903-v-okkupirovannom-kryimu-posle-rekordnogo-obvala-rublya-vo-vtornik-voznik-defitsit-valyutyi.html

10. https://news.allcrimea.net/

11. https://yandex.ru

12. https://www.dailyadvent.com

13. https://mmgp.com/

14. https://www.youtube.com/

15. https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/ukraine_in_russian/2015/02/150216_ru_s_crimea_sanctions_ukrainians