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Russians get a taste of summer vacation in Crimea

#Russians #taste #summer #vacation #Crimea

Russian tourist Alexandra Rumyantseva sunbathes on a beach in Moscow-annexed Crimea, not far from the front lines of Ukraine’s eastern and southern territories.

Sitting in a white bikini on a rock by the clear waters of the Black Sea on the outskirts of Sevastopol, Rumyantseva looks up as a Russian fighter jet zooms through the perfectly blue sky.

“Of course I can’t say that we are in a completely relaxed state,” she told AFP news agency.

The front is around 300 kilometers north of Sevastopol – the largest city in Crimea and home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Despite fighting nearby, the Saint Petersburg charity worker chose to spend her beach vacation with her husband and two sons on the peninsula.

Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, the onset of Western sanctions, disrupted air services with Europe and mounting domestic economic woes have closed many popular tourist destinations in Europe and elsewhere to Russian tourists.

But even getting to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and is a popular beach destination, is difficult.

Russia’s balmy Black Sea coast and Crimea are difficult to reach due to airspace closures in the south due to fighting in Ukraine.

Rumyantseva’s family drove 2,500 kilometers. They used a land bridge that Moscow had built to connect the peninsula to mainland Russia.

Rumyantseva said there were rumors that the bridge might be blown up and that “many were concerned,” but the family decided to risk it anyway.

On the way, they saw a military convoy that appeared to be heading forward.

– “People are afraid” –

When AFP visited Sevastopol on a hot July day, Russian warships could be seen in the distance while beachgoers cooled off in the sea.

Aside from the ships and the occasional jet noise, few signs pointed to the full-scale military campaign next door.

Teenagers jumped off rocks and shirtless men drank beer and made shashliki (grilled meat), a Russian summer favorite.

Russian patriotic music played in the city center and visitors were offered souvenirs with the letter Z – a symbol of Moscow’s struggles in Ukraine.

Fewer tourists than usual have turned up in Crimea this summer.

“It seems like there are mostly locals here,” said 28-year-old Anna Zaluzhnaya, who works in the food industry while lying in the sun.

The effects are being felt by local businessmen who depend on tourism as the peninsula is largely cut off from the world due to sanctions.

Albert Agagulyan, 69, runs a small kebab shop on a beach outside of Sevastopol.

The retired fighter pilot said he couldn’t afford to send his child to summer camp this year.

“People don’t come here because they’re scared,” he added.

– “Concerned about these events” –

Crimea borders southern Ukraine’s Kherson region – now controlled by Moscow – and the south-eastern Zaporizhia region – partly occupied by the Russian army – is also nearby.

Kyiv has pledged to retake lost southern territories captured by Russian forces, and some believe the possibility of Ukrainian attacks on Crimea cannot be ruled out.

While some prefer not to discuss politics, locals like Viktor Borodulin say they have closely followed Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

“I am very concerned about these events,” said the 77-year-old engineer. He said he was particularly saddened by the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva in April.

Borodulin became nostalgic for the Soviet past and beamed when he spoke of the possibility of buying fruit and vegetables from Moscow-occupied southern Ukraine.

“Today I even bought some Kherson products,” he said.

“For me it is a great pleasure.”

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#Russians #taste #summer #vacation #Crimea

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