Here's his report for JN1 TV, if you're curious to see video from Crimea a few days ago. (Shortly after filming, he wrote: "A group of Russian supporters berated me and Vasya while we were doing a report, calling us fascists and liars. I told them we were working for a Jewish news channel. It didn’t matter. We were still fascists. The irony was completely lost.")
I wonder where those bold protesters from FEMEN, the Ukrainian feminist activists who made a scene in front of the regional Crimean parliament two weeks ago and were dragged into police vans by Cossacks, are now.
Today also saw the funeral of a 38 year-old human rights activist, a Crimean Tatar, who was dragged off by pro-Russian "self-defense" forces in Simferopol earlier this month. His body, which was found in the village of Zemlyanichnoye, showed signs of torture.
Yesterday, I emailed Collison asking about the situation in Kiev after the hastily cobbled-together Crimean referendum deciding whether the region would (a) join Russia formally, or (b) break away from the rest of Ukraine and join Russia de facto.
Things in Kyiv are more or less back to normal, as far as the revolution is concerned. The shops have reopened, the cafes are full again, and there even seem to be some new places opening up. My friends and I have a theory that the interim authorities went ahead and approved a bunch of applications that had been held up in the insane bureaucracy. It's notoriously difficult to open or operate a restaurant or business in Ukraine if you don't have connections with the oligarchs or powers that be. Maybe that is changing? Wishful thinking? Hard to say.
On the other hand, everyone is on edge about the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. No one here in Kyiv recognizes the "referendum" that was held over the weekend. People are scared that Russia is going to keep pushing westward. It seems unlikely, but Ukrainians are preparing. Reserves have been called up, and people are getting ready for war.
Even my strident pacifist friends say they are ready to fight if it comes to it. My friend Z told me last night that he has friends throughout Russia, and that it's hard for him to comprehend war, but if it comes to it he is ready to go. That seems to be the general mood. Most people have some connection to Russia, but at the same time they feel betrayed and threatened. Putin seems to be alienating an entire generation of people who belong to a country with some of the closest cultural ties to Russia of any other place in the world.
I think a lot of people will leave Crimea, especially Ukrainians. What happens now puts a lot of people in the position where they have to choose between two countries. What does it mean if you choose Ukrainian citizenship? I'd like look into what it means as far as property ownership, working rights, etc. to see how that changes. If Russia goes ahead with taking the territory, it also raises the question of what to do with all of the Ukrainian troops on bases throughout the peninsula. No one is surrendering yet, so the threat of armed conflict is still very real. One Ukrainian soldier was killed earlier today.
It will be interesting to see what Putin actually does with Crimea. It looks like he is ready to absorb it into Russia, but there is also a possibility that it could become frozen like Transnistria in Moldova or Abkhazia in Georgia. Moscow seems intent on actually making the territory part of Russia rather than a breakaway republic, so it looks like things will move forward. But if Abkhazia or Transnistria are any indication, the area is in for tough economic times. It's difficult to do business in either of those territories, not just due to corruption but because it's hard to attract investment, development, or even European backpackers to a disputed territory. Crimea's economy depends a lot on tourism, and it's hard to imagine a booming beach scene this spring or summer. I'm sure RT will have a piece in a few months about how Yalta is full of happy tourists since Crimea was returned home, but I wouldn't believe it.
While the referendum is clearly a joke, there are a lot of Russians there who want Crimea to return to Russia. They will stay, and maybe more Russians will move in. As an outsider, I don't see anything wrong with independence for Crimea if that is what people want, but this is the worst possible way to do it.
If Russia really wanted to take Crimea back, why not let Crimea hold a legal and fair vote? Scotland is holding a referendum on independence in a few months, but they have had well over a year to work out the details, campaign, hold a public debate, work with authorities in London, and go through the democratic process. Why can't that happen here? Why send in soldiers? Why scare everyone? Why rush through a bogus referendum two weeks after coming up with the idea?
I'm afraid we're going to find out.
As a side note, Russian anarchists in Petrozavodsk have reported that activists who planned a relatively modest demonstration against the annexation of Crimea—alongside their regularly scheduled Food Not Bombs meal giveaway—were kidnapped by masked men, driven into the forest, and severely beaten with police batons.