Crimean Summer Tourism Disaster


A woman advertising tours and trips for visitors in Yalta this month finds small crowds and few customers. A woman advertising tours and trips for visitors in Yalta this month finds small crowds and few customers. Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea has prompted many Ukrainians and international tourists to boycott vacations on the peninsula. The peninsula’s two million residents, who depend heavily on tourist spending, are heading for a bleak summer season. Less than half of last year’s six million tourists are expected this year. © Courtesy

SIMFEROPOL, Crimea – By this time, Simferopol railway station should be bustling with tourists hauling summer holiday luggage. Yet, it is remarkably empty.

The mini-bus to the seaside resort of Yalta was half empty, and the few people on it were all locals. The winding road that climbs over the Angarsky pass to the coast was largely free of traffic. Billboards along the route showed forlorn, tatty advertisements for Ukrainian firms that don’t exist anymore in Crimea, or  airlines that no longer fly here. About every fourth billboard was a poster urging people to vote in a referendum to join Russia that took place nearly three months ago.

On arriving in Yalta, the cafe of a smart hotel in a prime location near the seaside was closed.

“There you go: your first indication of how the tourist business is going this year,” said Ihor Brudny, the tour firm owner who had arranged a meeting here, with a resigned shrug.

Early June is usually a busy and hopeful time for Crimeans.

Half of the peninsula’s two million people make their living from tourism. And now they should be gearing up for floods of visitors – 6 million last year – who flock to the beaches and mountains from June to August, bringing their Ukrainian hryvnias, Russian rubles and, increasingly, dollars and euros.

This year, the Russian takeover of Crimea after a sham referendum in March that most the world didn’t recognize, has turned this world upside-down.

People walk near the seafront of Crimea’s famous resort city of Yalta on June 4.People walk near the seafront of Crimea’s famous resort city of Yalta on June 4. Continue reading

Kyiv claims Russian tanks and artillery have crossed border


A view of residential buildings damaged by mortar shells during clashes between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian armed separatists, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on June 11, 2014, taken from the destroyed window of a building.A view of residential buildings damaged by mortar shells during clashes between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian armed separatists, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on June 11, 2014, taken from the destroyed window of a building. © AFP

Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia of allowing tanks and heavy artillery to roll across the border, effectively holding Moscow accountable for arming separatists in its breakaway eastern regions.

The comments by Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, were the first clear admission by a senior Ukrainian official that the country no longer controlled swaths of its eastern border as it fights an insurgency in the Donetsk and Lugansk provinces it has accused Russia of supporting.

Credible evidence of tanks and other heavy weaponry crossing the border from Russia would increase the likelihood of tougher western sanctions against Moscow.

At a Group of Seven meeting in Brussels last week, western leaders including US President Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, German chancellor, specifically called on Russia to “stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border and to exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence.”

The G7 leaders did not agree specific triggers for another round of sanctions but signalled they were ready to introduce broader measures aimed at hitting sectors of Russia’s economy if it continued to destabilise eastern Ukraine.

In a televised briefing on Thursday, Mr Avakov said three tanks had been observed crossing the border that day. “From the side of the Russian Federation, specifically in Dyakovo region, columns are breaking through border crossings seized by terrorists,” Mr Avakov said, referring to a frontier post in the Lugansk region. “Columns of armoured personnel carriers, and armoured vehicles with artillery, have been determined to have come through these posts.”

The tanks made their way to Snezhnoe, a city emerging as a new headquarters of separatist rebels as Ukraine’s military pursue a crackdown on the rebel-held city of Slavyansk.

From there they headed to the city of Horlivka in Donetsk province, where they were attacked by Ukraine’s military. “Battles are under way,” Mr Avakov said.  Continue reading

The story of YanukovychLeaks documentary


The former president of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych fled his residence on Feb. 22. Volunteer divers found nearly 200 folders of documents at a lake at the residence.The former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych fled his residence on Feb. 22. Volunteer divers found nearly 200 folders of documents at a lake at the residence. © president.gov.ua

When Viktor Yanukovych fled his residence on Feb. 22, he tried to destroy something precious before escaping. Some 120 folders of documents were dumped in the lake, containing precious evidence of corruption, his lavish lifestyle and excesses. But the drowning operation did not go as smoothly as he had hoped for.

Some documents were accidentally spotted flowing on the surface by journalists who came to the estate that day. They called in divers, and that’s how the rescue started. For more than a week, a groups of journalists and many volunteers dried, photographed and scanned those documents. This is how YanukovychLeaks project started. The documentary, created in support of Mezhyhirya Fest, a festival of investigative journalism and online activism, tells the story.

A new  documentary “Newsroom Mezhyhirya: The story of YanukovychLeaks” has been released.

On Feb. 22, volunteer divers found nearly 200 folders of documents at a lake at the residence of former president of Ukraine. They had been thrown in the lake to destroy them as people were escaping the compound.

Newsroom Mezhyhirya

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