In Depth

Crimea: how daily life has changed under Russian rule

Half a year after annexation much has changed in Crimea, but confusion and tension remain

Local residents in Crimea lining up to get drinking water

Six months after the Republic of Crimea was annexed by Russia, a move that Ukraine and the West have refused to recognise, the peninsula remains caught in the middle of a battle between Kiev and the Kremlin.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian government said it would be reducing electricity supplies to Crimea and threatened to cut off the region altogether due to its own power shortages which have arisen from the conflict with Russian rebels in the east. Crimea still relies on Ukraine for 80 per cent of its power, according to Reuters.

As Crimean residents prepare to face potential power blackouts, how else has daily life changed under Russian rule? The people of Crimea were promised better salaries and bigger pensions, has the Kremlin delivered?

Economy and banking

Following the annexation, Russia forced all Ukrainian banks in the region to close, which lead to  thousands of people losing access to their savings, salaries and pensions. Russia, however, says it has allocated 30bn roubles in compensation for those people, reports The Guardian.

Online banking, credit cards and ATMs no longer work in Crimea, so long queues form outside the few Russian banks, New York Times journalist Neil MacFarquhar told National Public Radio.

While pensions have increased by 25 per cent under Russian annexation, food prices have soared dramatically due to water shortages after Kiev shut off the water supplies needed for irrigation. There have also been difficulties in delivering goods from both Russia and the Ukraine.

Tourism

Crimea was a popular holiday location for Ukrainians, Russians and Westerners and a frequent destination for luxury cruise ships before the conflict. The fighting has had a devastating impact on the region's tourism sector, despite reassurances from President Vladimir Putin that the region is safe. One of the contributing factors is that Russian visas are now required for entry. Under Ukrainian law it was easier to travel to the region as US and EU nationals did not require a visa to enter Crimea.

 Gay rights 

Crimea has adopted Russia's anti-gay legislation which bans public activities that could be seen as "promoting" homosexuality, prompting criticism from human rights groups. The region's de facto leader Sergei Aksyonov recently said that Crimea "does not need" gay people, Russian news agency Interfax reports.

He said that if anyone from the LGBT community organised a protest, "our police and self-defence forces will react immediately and in three minutes will explain to them what kind of sexual orientation they should stick to". He said gay people "have no chance" in Crimea.

In comparison to the Kremlin, Kiev has a much more liberal approach to gay rights. Ukraine was the first post-Soviet nation to decriminalise homosexuality, according to the New Republic. There is currently a piece of progressive legislation awaiting approval by Ukraine's parliament that would protect LGBT workers from discrimination and forms part of integration criteria with the EU.

Time

The Crimean peninsula officially changed its time zone to align with Moscow's in March, placing it two or three hours ahead of Ukraine (depending on the time of year). While the shift was largely symbolic, local papers warned it could result in "health problems such as sleep disorder, apathy, depression and possible changes to the endocrine system," according to AFP.

Tension and 'perpetual confusion'

Neil MacFarquhar describes "a state of perpetual confusion" across all sectors of society as the country remains torn between the two nations. "Nobody knows what law to use in the courts. Virtually any aspect of life you pick, people aren't really sure what Russian law is or what to apply." There are also tensions among citizens as patriotic Russians live side-by-side with proud Ukrainians, both believing the land belongs to their nation.

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