Arrival in Crimea - pick the 'forbidden fruit'
Sunday November 3, 2019
Despite the western punitive sanctions against Crimea I arrived here Friday
about 5:00 pm on a flight from Moscow. It was snowing at the airport as I
left Russia's capital city. When I arrived in Simferopol, Crimea it was
sunny but cold.
I spent the night in the Ukraina Hotel in Simferopol,
the same hotel our Russia Study Tour group stayed in last May when we
visited the city. On Saturday morning I had a meeting with one of my hosts
to review plans for my time in Crimea, and the conference I was invited to
attend. He told me he is also working to arrange for me to speak at a local
university while I am here.
After the meeting I took a taxi to the
famous Crimean city of Yalta, about a two-hour ride. The traffic was quite
heavy which indicated that the new bridge Putin had built from the mainland
of Russia out to the Crimean peninsula was in fact bringing many tourists to
the 'forbidden land'.
The west is now punishing Crimean citizens for
their vote in 2014, by a super-majority of
to rejoin Russia after the US sponsored coup in Kiev, Ukraine. The US-NATO
were licking their chops wishing to grab Crimea (and its Black Sea Russian
naval base) after the coup. But they were thwarted by the people of
Crimea. The US-NATO claimed that Russia annexed (stole) Crimea but that was
just propaganda. The mostly Russian ethnic population in Crimea had also
voted to rejoin the mother country in 1991 at the time of the Soviet Union's
disintegration but they were ignored.
As a result the US and Europe
threw severe sanctions on Crimea as punishment for exercising their
democratic rights. My credit card won't work here, Crimean students cannot
go to European or US universities like they could in the past, and tourists
who used to come here by the droves on cruise ships no longer dock in Yalta.
I've now been here three times, the first exactly one year ago when I
came to prepare the way for our Russia Study Tour last spring. This time I
can see big changes. The roads are much better, new homes and apartment
building are being built all over, and many more people (mostly Russian
tourists) are on the street here in Yalta. The 2nd largest Muslim Mosque in
Russia (being built for the Crimean Tatars) looked to be nearly completed in
Simferopol when my taxi drove by it on the way to Yalta.
For the next
several nights in Yalta I am staying in the Tavrida Hotel (pictured above)
just a few meters from the Black Sea along the promenade area of the city.
Cost of my room in this historic and beautiful hotel? Came to $52 per night
(includes a great breakfast) with a small washing machine in my room, so I
did my laundry. The hotel staff kindly provided the soap and turned the
washer on for me.
Yalta is most famous for the 1945
between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin held at the Livadia Palace (summer
residence of the Russian imperial family in the 1860s). The aim of the
big-three conference was to shape a post-war peace that represented not just
a collective security order but a plan to give self-determination to the
liberated peoples of post-Nazi Europe. But due to western moves to isolate
and demonize the Soviet Union in the post-war period, many of the hopes for
the Yalta meeting quickly faded. The Cold War ushered in new tensions that
allowed the US to build the permanent war economy and posture itself as the
global policeman. We all know how that turned out.
The conference I will be speaking at on November 7-8 will be held at Livadia
Palace. I will be addressing the topic of 'anti-war motivation, wish of
the people to live in peace'. I am looking forward to it.
I was excited to meet fellow Mainer Regis Tremblay (also now in Yalta) and
our friend Tanya Bukharina (our guide earlier this past May when we came to
Crimea) for pizza. They were also recently in the Donbass region doing some
film projects so we compared notes about the experience. Everyone is trying
to predict what will happen next in Kiev when it comes to dealing with the
two republics on the Russian border who are demanding their independence
after being repeatedly attacked since 2014. The key element in the equation
is the US-NATO desire for war on the Russian border.
to predict what Washington & Brussels will do. Are they willing to risk WW
III with Russia? Will any sane thinking emerge in European capitals to help
stop this march toward madness? Will the American people wake up and learn
that the Ukrainian 'adventure' is a corrupt and tragic mistake initiated by
the Obama administration and now continued by Trump?
Only time will
tell. Meanwhile I will keep writing and posting about Ukraine in hopes that
people will catch on to this great modern tragedy.
This shot is along the promenade in Yalta. I
moved today to the hotel that conference participants will be staying in which
is just beyond the boat restaurant in the background. Yesterday while walking
along the promenade there was an Orthodox service happening just outside the
church in the foreground. The singing and chanting were quite special to hear.
A large crowd formed. I've been asking alot of people what the difference is
between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The answer
has repeatedly been that Rome is basically allied with western governments and
their political agendas. People say the Orthodox Church holds stronger to the
original Jesus message. There is no doubt that the Russian people are far more
traditional than their western peers.
I walked for several hours yesterday up and down
the promenade where many shops, restaurants and hotels are located. I also
ventured off into some interesting side streets and saw many older houses and
buildings. The streets are very narrow and parking is a premium. I noticed
that most people were not shopping in the very trendy and expensive shops along
the promenade. The only two stores I noted that were crowded were selling
cosmetics and jewelry. I imagine that before western sanctions were slapped on
Crimea, following their 2014 vote to return to Russia, most of these shops were
filled with comparatively wealthy westerners arriving on the cruise ships which
no longer dock here. Now most of the tourists are from Russia. Some still come
from Ukraine (I need to learn more about that dynamic).
The view from my hotel room of the hills
behind me is very similar to this photo. This extraordinary view surely
has to be a key reason for Yalta's charm.
On the right side of the Crimea part of the map
you will find 'Kerch' which is where Putin built the bridge in record time that
connects Russia with Crimea. Construction began soon after the 2014 vote to
reunify Crimea with Russia. Now tourists by large numbers are driving from
Russia onto the Crimean peninsula. That means traffic jams and not many places
to park but visitors don't seem phased as they appear to be having a good time
here. In the gold upper part of the map you can see where I was previously in
the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics that are continually under attack by
the Nazis. It is interesting to note that in Canada and the US (Chicago,
Brooklyn, etc) there are large enclaves of 'nationalist' Ukrainians who today
are very active in supporting the Nazis that are shelling the Donbass. Lt. Col
Alexander Vindman (a Democrat) who has been calling out Trump on the Ukraine
phone call issue, comes from one of these anti-Russian exile families which
indicates there are many deep layers in this current drama playing out in
Washington surrounding the US-Ukraine-Russia story. Don't just swallow the
mainstream media line on this - dig into the bigger Ukraine corruption story.
One good source is here.
This is the famous Swallows Nest that is just up
the road from Yalta. It's quite a dramatic view from there, right off the
highway that leads to Sevastopol (where the Russian Black Sea navy base is
located). It was Sevastopol that was the real prize that the US-NATO sought
when they orchestrated the coup in Kiev, Ukraine in 2014. But the people in
Crimea were watching the madness of the 'Maidan revolution' on TV that year and
decided they wanted nothing to do with the Nazis who forced their way into power
with the backing of the US (particularly V-P Joe Biden, Sen. John McCain, Asst
Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen.
Lindsey Graham, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and more). Thus their vote to seek
reunification with the Russian Federation.
Yalta Conference Notes
Saturday November 9, 2019
The Fifth Anniversary International Conference: "Crimea in the Current
International Context" began on November 7 inside the Livadia Palace, Yalta,
Crimea. In these same rooms Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in 1945 to
discuss the post-WW II architecture.
More than 30 nations were
represented (officially or unofficially) - I was able to catch this list:
Austria, Cyprus, Poland, Norway, Germany, Japan, India, USA, Czech Republic,
China, Greece, Israel, Belarus, Belgium, Tunisia, Palestine, Slovakia,
Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey, Armenia, and Abkhazia.
The place was
packed with participants, observers and media. Here are some of my many
pages of notes from various speakers at the event. They are not posted in
any particular order of relevance.
- We [Crimeans] don't need any proof of our rights.
People who think of themselves as the master of the world can't live with
our choice [to return to Russia in the 2014 referendum]. Sanctions have a
negative influence. We are still not free to travel to Europe. Every
international delegation is a new friend of Crimea. We seek peaceful
- The US strategy is to dominate the world....fears
the growth of China. Some US analysts predict war with China. They wish to
break Russia apart before it becomes too strong. Change of US president
will not change their course. Some Kissinger followers wish to neutralize
Russia so that it would not support China. Trump says our main enemy is
China and that the US has to maintain good relations with Russia.
- The majority of Americans don't know where Ukraine
- The west tries not to recognize the violations of
law during [the US orchestrated] 2014 Kiev coup d 'etat.
- The US grab for Syria's oil is illegal.
- You should not look for enemies, but instead look
- Public diplomacy [a common topic during the event]
should be used in order to circumvent the efforts of those who believe that
a unipolar power should dominate the world.
- Public diplomacy is key to shaping public opinion.
Public tribunals were used during the Vietnam War to expose US war crimes
and should be used again.
- Russia got religion through Crimea 1,000 years ago.
- When Russia is attacked it is usually through
Crimea. The fascists occupied Crimea during WW II.
- We are living in a transitional stage with the
weakening of international law and international institutions like the
- Russia is playing a very important role in the world
today by encouraging international dialogue.
- US-NATO sanctions on Russia are having a boomerang
effect on Italy's economy. When market share with Russia is lost, it is
difficult to get it back as Russia seeks new trading partners. Why must a
false economic restriction on Crimea imperil the future of Europe?
- Russia is a historical and valued partner of India.
We need to have dialogue.
- Crimea looked worse under Ukrainian control than it
does today under Russia despite the sanctions.
- Railroad to Crimea from Russia will soon be opened
lessening even further Crimea's isolation.
- Friends of Crimea in Germany think we are running
out of time and we must work together to do environmental projects. These
kinds of exchange projects could lead to more bi-lateral environmental
- Commercial banks in Poland are beginning to question
and threaten people who have traveled to Russia and Crimea.
- Many people in Bulgaria love Russian culture and
language so we also care about Crimea. Thousands of Bulgarians live in
Crimea and they are local witnesses who understand the Crimean case.
- There seems to be a threat from the Anglo-Saxon
- I represent the Brotherhood of War Veterans -
terrorism and breath of war we feel now - Lots of events are going on today
to rehabilitate fascism,
Bandera, etc. Russia should have its own veterans department in
government because we might have more of them the way things are going
- We need a new Yalta meeting between Russia, China
and the US.
- Where ever oil and gas is present the US military is
there destabilizing things. We don't want American missiles on our Serbian
- The US will lead the war by the hands of other
countries. If they want war with Russia, then they will use Ukraine.
- Sanctions on Crimea are well targeted genocide
against two million people. How do we meet this genocide? Public diplomacy
should be concentrated on.
- For us in Norway, the most important thing to do is
to bring people to Crimea.
- As a lifelong Yalta resident, with family here for
generations, there was never a doubt how I'd vote in the 2014 referendum to
rejoin Russia. While still under Ukraine's control they said we would no
Pavlovich Chekhov in schools because he was a 'foreign' [Russian]
- We must reach out to environmental groups in
different countries to share information and work together.
I had several good connections with people I met while at the conference.
Two in particular are of special note.
Costas Isychos from Greece
was the former Alternate Minister of National Defence. He was appointed by
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in January 2015 but resigned six months later
along with five other cabinet members. Isychos told me that they resigned
their posts because Tsipras betrayed the nation [he was elected as an
opponent of neo-liberalism] when he agreed to an austerity package with the
EU which further increased poverty in the country. In addition Tsipras
agreed to allow the US to dramatically expand its military bases in Greece
that are aimed at Russia.
The other person that I formed a close bond
with is Kimura Mitsuhiro from Tokyo. He is a long-time activist and strong
friend of Crimea. We spent lots of time comparing notes about many foreign
As one might imagine I learned alot from being at
this conference. Taking in the collective experience and wisdom of those
assembled from so many nations was a gift I will always treasure.