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    No Place Like Home: How Crimea is Changing After Reunification With Russia

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    On Friday, March 18, Russia celebrates the second anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with the country.

    On this day exactly two years ago Crimea held a historic referendum on its status. Some 96 percent voted for the reunification with Russia. The following day Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to recognize the Crimean Republic. On March 18, an agreement was signed in the Kremlin on the admission of Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia.

    Thus, two years ago the lengthy process began to integrate the two new territories into Russia.

    While the process of Crimea’s integration will take quite some time the republic has already seen significant changes since its reunification with Russia.

    As for the international recognition of Crimea’s status, everything remains the same though. Just as before, no UN country members have recognized Crimea as part of Russia.

    Visits made by some European lawmakers to the peninsula can hardly be considered as a sign that the political blockade will soon be over.

    At the same time, the issue of Crimea recognition has reached stalemate. What is more, the Russian government was ready for such a scenario. For example, the US never recognized the Baltic states as part of the Soviet Union. However, the Baltics were successfully integrated into the Soviet economy. What is more, in 1975 US President Gerald Ford signed the Helsinki Final Act which guaranteed the territorial integrity of the USSR.

    No progress has also been made over the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the West after the Crimean referendum.

    Nevertheless, Moscow has gained significant political advantages after Crimea reunited with Russia.

    "The move prevented Western alliances from further expanding to territories which have traditionally been crucial to Russian national security," Sergei Karaganov from Russia’s Higher School of Economics told Lenta.ru.

    According to him, after Crimea’s reunification Moscow ended the discussion on Ukraine’s admission to NATO and showed it is ready to protect its national interests.

    What is more, many Western politicians have repeatedly stressed that the referendum in Crimea was legitimate because it let Crimean people exercise their right to self-determination.

    In an interview with RT, French politician Yvan Blot underscored that there is still a contradiction in international law between two norms – inviolability of borders and the right to self-determination.

    "Crimean people voted for reunification with Russia. They exercised their right to self-determination. We should respect their choice," Blot pointed out.

    Despite numerous international tensions, Crimea has emerged as an extremely popular tourist destination. According to Russian ticket search website Aviasales, in summer 2014 the number of airline tickets to Simferopol jumped several times.

    Furthermore, a number of good four- and five-star hotels were opened in Crimea, including the five-star MRIYA Resort&SPA complex outside Yalta. At the same time, Crimea’s tourism infrastructure still needs to be improved.

    What is important is the fact that Crimea offers numerous possibilities for low-budget tourist trips. By 2018, the construction of a bridge between the Crimean peninsula and continental Russia will be completed. The 19-kilometers bridge is expected to be the longest bridge in Russia.

    Progress has also been made in the social sphere, including healthcare, wages and pensions as well as education.

    Over the past two years, the majority of problems Crimea has faced were provoked by Ukrainian radicals, including the blockade of food supplies to the peninsula and the energy blockade.

    According to Evgeniy Minchenko, head of the Moscow-based International Institute for Political Analysis, despite the fact that Crimea and Sevastopol have become full-fledged federal subjects there are a number of problems with Crimean political elites, particularly corruption.

    The high level of corruption stems from the old Ukrainian political system, and it may take years to root it out.

    The federal government has been making enormous efforts to improve the situation, and things are actually changing, Minchenko underscored.

    Related:

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    Poklonskaya's Story: Crimea's Leading Lady Recounts a Busy Two Years
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    blockade, referendum, anniversary, sanctions, Crimea, Russia
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