It was famously dubbed “Russia’s paradise”, by Catherine the Great’s lover. But as the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea approaches all is not well it seems in paradise.
International sanctions are hitting the country hard, “tougher for Crimea than Russia” contends Alexander Lebedev, a Russian investor.
It’s biggest industry – tourism is suffering. Government data shows the number of visitors declined by a third last year.
“Crimea has a very good chance to become if not Sochi, at least the number two resort to Sochi. The only unpleasantness here is that bank cards, I’m talking about Visa and Mastercard – do not work, so I would say to anyone thinking of coming here that they should bring plenty of cash,” said Andrei Lemeshko a visitor to Crimea.
For many locals the biggest worry is the spiralling cost of food. Kyiv’s refusal to recognise the border means it can’t legally export to Crimea directly.
Most supplies come from Russia by ferry but bad weather can delay shipments for days. Many products are just not available. Regional government data showed inflation jumped 38 percent and the cost of food increased by almost a half from March through to December. Not a single Russian supermarket chain has opened in Crimea.
But a poll at the end of January by a Ukraine market research agency recorded that more than half of the 800 people questioned believe they are better off financially since joining Russia.