Europe

Voices from the conflict in Crimea

The peninsula of Crimea in south-eastern Ukraine has become the arena for a struggle for influence between Moscow and the new government in Kiev.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russian-speaking people in the region must be protected, others have criticised the Kremlin for sending in armed forces.

With no shots fired and no diplomatic solutions yet offered, the people of Crimea, as well as Ukraine and Russia, have told the BBC of their feelings of apprehension and optimism.

Pavel Rubtsov, Moscow, Russia

I was born in Russia, in Moscow. I teach interpretation at the university.

It's all very controversial.

Image copyright Pavel Rubtsov
Image caption Pavel says the media is not covering all aspects of the problem

Instead of talking about the legitimacy of Ukraine's interim government you are now shifting focus to the so-called "Russian aggression".

It's not just about Russian aggression and influence. From what I've heard, the interim government in the Ukraine is not capable of running the country.

The BBC is not covering all aspects of the problem. It shrinks the situation down to a black-and-white picture, which is not the case.

There are some people in Crimea who want to be with Ukraine, some with Russia, some neither.

There should be a referendum and proper elections in the Crimea, and Ukraine.

Olga Usenko, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

I am Russian-speaking and work at the National University as a teacher. I have never had any problems with using Russian in everyday life or at work although I don't think it would be unfair if I was told to speak Ukrainian, not Russian, during the classes.

Of course, we are strongly against having any foreign country's troops on our land. I have cousins in Sevastopol, the Russian base in Crimea, one of whom works for the Batkivschyna political party and is a Ukrainian patriot. However, another one doesn't feel Ukrainian and wants to be in Russia because "the salaries are higher".

Nevertheless, no-one is ready to kill for that, and we hope nothing like that will ever happen.

I think at least half of Ukraine's population have some Russian blood and the same goes for the Ukrainian blood of the population of the European part of Russia. That adds to the absurdity of Putin's decisions.

For now we just would like to be safe from the war, including any kind of military "protection" of any interested party.

Inna Lymar, Yalta, Crimea

Image copyright Inna Lymar

I was born in Kherson, Ukraine. My whole family and I speak in Russian, but we know the Ukrainian language.

Ukraine is one.

I lived in many regions of Ukraine - in Odessa, Kiev, Lviv, and Crimea. I now live in Yalta and Russian armies scare me.

I am against division of Ukraine, and Crimea is Ukrainian. I do not need conditional assistance from Russia.

Steve Vorgias, Simferopol, Crimea

I have been visiting Simferopol and the Crimea for over a year. The Russians you speak to think Crimea should have stayed with Russia, that the transfer by Khrushchev was invalid.

They are scared of what will happen next. They recently heard that the Russian language was no longer to be recognised by the interim government, which troubled them, and that Russian passports would be fast-tracked to citizens here for the first time, which cynically only just started to occur.

They see Putin as a strong figure, but none of them, neither Russian, Ukrainian or of Tatar descent, would disagree with the point that Yanukovych was corrupt.

Sadly they have no faith in the democratic process, and state that governments previous to Yanukovych were also corrupt, and expect the next one to be so too.

They make jokes about how one of Viktor's sons was appointed minister for roads and how none of the roads are repaired. As you drive you witness this state of disrepair, and the jokes start.

All utilities including water, gas and electricity are channelled through to Crimea from Ukraine and they worry about hardships in the near future if supplies are cut off.

Sergei Larionov, Bachisarai district, Crimea

I am a Russian citizen. I happen to spend the winter with my parents-in-law who are Russians living in Crimea. I have spent a lot of time in Crimea through my life, lived in Sevastopol a few years as a kid. It's second homeland to me.

Yesterday morning my mother-in-law was kind of sore at not seeing any Russian troops. I had to tell her they can't be near everyone's kitchen garden.

There's one thing that is not obvious from the foreign media coverage: Crimea certainly needed a strong police or military presence in the last days of February. I am referring to the clashes between Tatar and Russian demonstrators. They were not too violent in themselves but could have developed into something grave in a short while. I am not accusing Tatars, they have their own sentiment. People feared Maidan activists, those they call "fascists". Even if these "fascists" turn out to be just aggressive youths, they can be quite unpleasant and dangerous.

As I said, a strong police presence was necessary but there's no way the current Ukrainian authorities could have provided it. So, whatever Putin is doing many people feel safer with Russian troops here, that's for sure.

Andrii Moroz, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Image copyright Andrii Moroz
Image caption Andrii hopes for a bright, prosperous and independent Ukraine

In the beginning of February I supported the Yanukovych regime, as I live in the eastern part of Ukraine, where the idea of economic and cultural union with Russia is quite strong.

However, in February, the month which opened my eyes to the Yanukovych regime, I became a strong supporter of neither the European nor Russian road for Ukraine, but a supporter of democratic changes. Additionally, the way he treated his people by dividing them on speaking Russian or Ukrainian was completely outrageous.

Now I, a 28-year-old Russian-speaking man, who studied in London for two years, feel absolutely no threat from our newly formed government toward my family. The main idea of Putin's military intervention to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians is a lie. We do not need to be protected by a foreign government.

All Ukrainians hope for a bright future, and moreover, I personally hope for a peaceful and bright prosperity for independent Ukraine.

Nikolay Musienko, Kharkov, Ukraine

Image copyright Nikolay Musienko

Far from everyone here supported Maidan, but I and all my colleagues are strongly opposed to Russian intervention and aggression against Ukraine.

We strongly suspect that lots of people taking part in the Russian separatists' meetings, and the most active of them, are "imported" from nearby Russian cities like Belgorod to destabilise the situation here. I can't understand why the Ukrainian government doesn't close the borders with Russia!

We can deal with our internal matters ourselves. We don't need any "protectors" and "friends" from Russia here. We are all Russian-speaking, by the way.

Svetlana Poddubnaya, Simferopol, Crimea

Image copyright Svetlana Puddobnaya
Image caption "Many of the corrupt officials are still sitting in parliament," says Svetlana

Russian people of Ukraine and the Crimea are glad Russia "invaded" Crimea. My relatives have lived in Crimea and south-eastern Ukraine for a very long time. Ukraine's new government says there is no threat for Russian people living in Ukraine, but it's not true, since among representatives of the new government there are people who hold nationalist and radical views.

They threw Molotov cocktails and stones during the revolution at soldiers who carried out their duty and protected their president and government buildings. How can mothers explain to their children that their fathers, officers who died when protecting an order in the country, were killed by "a hero of Ukraine"?

The new government couldn't get power legally - now they appoint ministers and regional governors who are from western Ukraine and want residents of eastern regions silent. As for mass media in our country, they belong to magnates. They present the information in a way that is beneficial for them.

There is a very high level of corruption in the country, but in spite of the revolution, many of the corrupt officials are still sitting in parliament. It is necessary to hold a referendum and legitimate elections in Ukraine. And it is necessary for Ukraine to become a federal state allowing people in each area to choose government servants themselves but not who were appointed in Kiev. It is the only way out.

Written by Richard Irvine-Brown

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