Some Ukrainians flee Crimea after Russia’s annexation

A woman and a child walk past an armoured vehicle at a military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol. Credit: Reuters
A woman and a child walk past an armoured vehicle at a military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol.
Credit: Reuters

As jubilant ethnic Russians celebrate Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian residents are mostly staying behind closed doors and some are packing their bags to leave the Black Sea peninsula.

In a small cafe in the old quarter of the regional capital Simferopol on Saturday, a group of Ukrainians gathered to watch Ukrainian news over the internet and to discuss their future.

“We are ready, packed and we can even leave tomorrow if we decide so,” said Sergey, a 64-year-old Ukrainian businessman who has been selling kitchen appliances across Crimea. He refused to give his full name fearing reprisals.

A native of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Sergey moved to Simferopol three decades ago where he got married.

“The good days in Crimea are over,” he said, sipping coffee. “I will try to sell my business in the coming days to cut my losses and leave.”

Ukrainians account for some 23 percent of Crimea’s 2 million population and are the second largest ethnic group after the Russians, who account for about 58 percent.

Many Ukrainians moved to the peninsula after 1954, when the Soviet Union gifted the peninsula, then Russian, to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws completing the annexation of Crimea on Friday after the deployment of thousands of Russian soldiers backed by local unarmed militias.

Shrugging off condemnation from Ukraine’s interim government and Western leaders, Russia says the annexation was necessary to protect Crimea’s ethnic Russians against what it described as a “fascist” threat in Kiev, where Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled after bloody popular unrest.

THREAT OF VIOLENCE

Last Sunday, Crimea’s pro-Russian authorities staged a referendum on secession from Ukraine in which a landslide 97 percent of participants voted to secede.

Some Crimean Ukrainians say they feel under pressure from pro-Russian neighbors and militias loyal to the region’s Moscow-backed prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov.

“It is really scary to stay here because if you support a different position to the radical pro-Russian one, you might become a victim of violence,” Galina Dzhikayeva, a director of an art center in Simferopol, said in a recent interview.

By Friday, about 900 people from Crimea had crossed to the mainland, a parliamentary deputy said, and the ministry for social affairs in Kiev said it had set up a special hotline to help them claim pensions, social security and relocate their children to new schools.

“The border guards are keeping statistics of people moving … to other Ukrainian regions … There are families with children among them as well as individuals,” Galina Lutkovska, a Ukrainian parliamentary deputy responsible for human rights, was quoted as saying by the Ukrinform news agency.

Students from mainland Ukraine studying at Crimean universities also said they may head home after the annexation.

“I don’t know if I will feel bad being Ukrainian and living in Russia, but … I do not accept this. I did not want this,” said Ksenia Semenchenko, a history student.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a human rights and security body, finally agreed this week to send monitors to Ukraine after a delay Western members blamed on Russia, but Moscow said it would have no mandate in Crimea.

Many Ukrainian servicemen who served in Crimea have also been packing up after Russian troops took over their positions. Although many said they would remain in Crimea where they were born, others said they were ready to redeploy to other posts.

“I will move my family to Ukraine’s mainland and continue to serve there,” said Slavik, a junior officer who served at a training outpost just outside Simferopol. “We will leave as soon as I receive my orders.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Protesters say new Met Opera is anti-Semitic

Protesters, including a former mayor and governor, gathered outside of the Metropolitan Opera on Monday afternoon to protest the opening of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

Local

Brooklyn girl's death ruled a homicide

The New York City Medical Examiner has ruled the death of a Brooklyn toddler a homicide. Jeida Torres, 3, was found bruised and unresponsive Saturday…

Local

New York City continues to prepare for Ebola…

New York City continues to prepare for the possibility of Ebola. There have been numerous scares, but no confirmed cases. Representatives from about 150 unions…

Local

NYPD nabs alleged serial bank robber

  The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for multiple Manhattan bank robberies this month. Police have arrested a Brooklyn man they…

Entertainment

We the Economy: Morgan Spurlock's new crusade

If Morgan Spurlock gets his way, you won't be able to avoid We the Economy, the series of 20 shorts films curated by the "Super…

Arts

3 Parody plays lampoon your childhood, adulthood and…

Whether you loved the source material or you're going in blind, these parody plays have something for every audience member. We rate three of NYC's hottest satirical shows.

Gossip

Who has more power: Harry Styles or Amal…

Amal Clooney comes in fourth on The Evening Standard's Most Influential Londoners list.

Music

#AskPaul McCartney reveals his love of American pop…

For an Englishman, Paul McCartney's pop culture tastes would fit right in stateside. The former Beatle (@PaulMcCartney) revealed that he has a real thing for…

NFL

John Idzik: 'We did a ton of background'…

Given John Idzik spent the previous five years with the Seahawks before he joined the Jets last January, there is a comfort level for the organization.

NFL

Jets add sizzle to struggling passing game with…

The Jets’ trade for Percy Harvin may have an air of desperation on the surface, but at 1-6 this season is hanging only by a thread.

NFL

Jason Pierre-Paul: 'We've got to regroup' during bye…

“We’ve got to regroup and figure out what went wrong,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. “When we come back, we want to be a great team.”

NFL

Breno Giacomini: Media blowing up Golden Tate-Percy Harvin…

According to Breno Giacomini, the fight between Golden Tate and Percy Harvin during Super Bowl week was over by the time the lineman turned around.

Education

Is a 'gap year' after high school for…

It’s a familiar script that millions of students follow each year: Graduate high school and then immediately start college. But more and more students are…

Parenting

New news about Kate Middleton's pregnancy

The Palace released a statement about Kate Middleton's pregnancy.

Parenting

Cool book for kids: 'The Princess In Black'

"The Princess In Black" will change the way girls view princesses.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…