News / Europe

Annexed by Russia, Crimea Could See Growing Financial, Travel Woes

A sign displaying currency rates is seen in Simferopol, Crimea  March 22, 2014.
A sign displaying currency rates is seen in Simferopol, Crimea March 22, 2014.
Daniel Schearf
— Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine could see the peninsula's economy suffer and the region isolated from the international community.

The crisis in Ukraine already had put a drain on many banks, making the process of withdrawing cash at automatic teller machines (ATMs) hit and miss.

Russia's takeover of Crimea made transfers of currency from banks, most of them located in mainland Ukraine, to the southern peninsula an even bigger challenge.

ATMs are running dry across Crimea, as cash dries up and banks are forced to put strict limits on withdrawals, leading to long lines of unhappy customers.

Western sanctions cut off Visa and MasterCard credit services to at least two Russian banks.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says a transitional period will be in effect until January 1, 2015, to organize Crimea's integration into its economic, financial, banking, legal and government systems.

Rumors are spreading in Crimea that the changeover from Ukraine to Russia's banking system could cut off credit cards altogether, at least for some days.

At least one hotel in Sevastopol, the base of Russia's Black Sea navy fleet, warned guests it might not be able to accept credit cards from Monday.

Crimea's economy also could take a big hit from lost tourism.

Western tourists are likely to avoid the Black Sea resort area now that it is associated with Russian military aggression.

Images of Russian troops and balaclava-clad armed militias knocking down gates at Ukrainian bases and threatening journalists were circulated widely in Western media, along with those of rowdy pro-Russia rallies with overt anti-Western messages.

Complications abound

Even if Western tourists wanted to visit, all fights to and from Crimea were suspended following Moscow's moves to annex the territory, except connections through Moscow.

Crimea's tour operators are beginning to realize their business could suffer, although it may be mitigated to some extent by increased Russian tourism.

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's signing documents last week for what Moscow says is a legal annexation, Crimea's transition from Ukraine to Russia passport controls has not been completed.

Airport staff in Simferopol say they are still operating under visa rules used as an autonomous region under Ukraine and do not know when they will switch to Russia's likely tighter controls.

Russian visa restrictions may be imposed where there were none before, specifically on Western journalists who are able to operate with tourist visas in Ukraine.

More ominously, there are conflicting reports on what happens to Ukrainian citizens in Crimea who do not want to become Russian nationals.

A controversial referendum on March 16, pushed by Crimea's Moscow-backed leaders, claimed 97 percent of voters wanted to become part of Russia. But some estimates say as many as 20 percent may want to keep their Ukrainian passports.

Russia already is handing out its passports and is giving Crimeans one month to decide if they want to retain their Ukrainian citizenship.

Crimea's leaders say those who choose to remain citizens of Ukraine would be cut off from Russia's social benefits, but they did not make clear how that would affect their legal status and other rights.  The ambiguity raises concerns of a worst case scenario where Ukrainians living in Crimea could be forced to get visas to stay in their homes.

Ukraine retaliated against Russia's grab on Crimea by making dual citizenship illegal and is considering instituting visa requirements for Russian visitors where currently there are none. 

If Moscow tries to seize more of Ukraine's territory in the east, where pro-Russia groups are demanding their own referendums to join Russia, and Russian troops are massed near the border, relations would deteriorate further and Kyiv could cut off land routes to the peninsula. 

Ukraine also supplies the vast majority of Crimea's water and electricity, which it may try to use as leverage to squeeze Moscow's new prize.

Simferopol on Sunday night experienced on and off electricity blackouts.  Crimea's pro-Russia Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov tweeted there also were partial electricity failures in Yalta, Kerch and Feodosia. He urged people to "find out the reasons" behind the outages.

You May Like

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid