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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid