Crimea is occupied for more than a year. Meanwhile life on the Peninsula has changed dramatically: prices have risen significantly, the number of tourists has decreased, and the freedom of speech had disappeared. Crimea became virtually isolated from the civilized world: planes from other countries do not fly there (except from Russia), cruise ships do not moor, foreign companies gradually cease their activity there... At the same time all the forces of Ukraine are targeted at fencing off from the territory, which continues to call its. It has become increasingly difficult for the Ukrainians to get to Crimea: the cancellation of trains, buses, border controls, and passengers with children should follow the rules of travelling abroad.
Crimean people face also difficulties when going to Ukraine. In particular, leaving Crimea, it is necessary to pass two border controls: the Russian and Ukrainian. As it is known, Ukraine does not recognize the Russian passports issued in Crimea, respectively, they can’t pass the Ukrainian checkpoint with such a document. So, Crimean people can enter Ukraine only having the Ukrainian passport (or Ukrainian international passport).
Some are tricky: they show Russian passports to Russian border guards, and Ukrainian one to Ukrainian border guards. As interlocutors of OstroV note, some people have repeatedly crossed the "border" like that as it is the simplest, but at the same time, the most dangerous option. On the one hand, it causes fewer problems with border guards, on the other, if you search and find the second passport, they can take it away and detain a person.
Russian border guards still allow residents of Crimea to cross the border with Ukrainian passports, but recently they have started to ask questions.
"In June I went from Crimea to Kiev two times and Russian border guards wondered these 2 times why I was going with the Ukrainian passport, not the Russian one. I gave a joke answer that hadn’t had time to get a Russian passport, they let me go. But the last time they said, maybe as a joke, or not, that soon everything would change, and they would let people pass only with Russian passports, if you were a resident of Crimea, of course. If that happens, it will be a disaster, because then we will have to take 2 passport with us, and it's dangerous if someone finds them, then who knows what happens", - said in comments to OstroV a resident of Sevastopol Katerina, who is forced to travel to the mainland of Ukraine several times a month.
As OstroV was told in the Crimea SOS public organization, it remains a problem for parents with children and foreigners to cross the administrative border, many have to go back to Kherson (200 km in one direction) for the necessary documents.
"Citizens of Ukraine are constantly complaining on the poor information about changes in the legislation of Ukraine on crossing the administrative border by young children who are under 16. There are also complaints from foreigners about obtaining additional special permission to cross the checkpoint of mainland Ukraine with Crimea. The fact that in the first and second cases, you need to get additional documents in Kherson, and the distance is about 200 km in one direction", - said the Crimea SOS.
How Ukraine makes the border with Crimean state-to-state one
Problems with the entry and exit of Crimea appeared immediately after "little green men" came and conducted the illegal referendum. Ukrainian authorities for security purposes introduced a rule that all men (suspended from 18 to 60) who travel to the island and back must have either Ukrainian (mainland) registration or certificate of employment or any other document that confirms relations with Ukraine.
Human rights activists and lawyers could not explain authorities for a long time that such actions are illegal, that according to the Constitution, citizens of Ukraine have the right to move freely throughout the territory with no certificates. A year ago a journalist of OstroV personally faced such a problem, when he went to Crimea. Ukrainian border guards then saw the Crimean registration, required to present a certificate of employment (fortunately it was obtained in advance). There were many occasions when young people were set down from train because they had only Ukrainian passport and no additional documents. This issue became particularly acute after the annexation of Crimea, as many patriots decided to leave the occupied peninsula and move to Ukraine, but they were elementary afraid that they would be not allowed to leave it.
"At one point I packed my bags, found a job in Kiev, found a flat to live in, and was ready to move, but then heard and read a lot (it was true) that without any references or acknowledgments that I am connected with Ukraine, I may not be allowed to leave Crimea on the grounds that I am a separatist and that’s all. I had to stay here in Sevastopol", - says 23-year-old Anton from Sevastopol.
As a result, Ukraine took drastic measures, and in December 2014 canceled all trains and buses which linked Crimea and Ukraine. But this was not enough on June 4th, 2015 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a new procedure for entering and leaving the occupied territory of Ukraine.
According to the decree No. 367, entering the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine and leaving it are possible through checkpoints. The main innovation is that now the foreigners and stateless persons will be able to cross the border of Crimean only if they have a passport and a special permit issued by the territorial body of the State Migration Service. Such permit is issued in case:
1) dwelling of close relatives and family members of a foreigner or stateless person on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, as confirmed by documents issued by the authorized state bodies of Ukraine;
2) location of the burial place of relatives or family members on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, as confirmed by the appropriate documents;
3) death of close relatives or family members living on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, which is confirmed by relevant documents;
4) existence of the ownership right on real estate located on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine;
5) need to participate in the protection of national interests of Ukraine in peaceful resolution of the conflict, the liberation of Ukraine from occupation or humanitarian policy issues (only at the request of or agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs);
6) need for diplomatic and consular functions, in particular in the framework of international organizations of which Ukraine is a member (exclusively at the request of or agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs);
7) regular trips to the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, related to the work of railway employees.
Such a permit can be issued by the territorial body of the State Migration Service of Ukraine at the place of stay. It can be used one or more times and is valid for a period specified in the application and confirmed by the documents.
A lawyer and an expert of the Regional Centre for Human Rights Sergei Zayets says that since the adoption of the decree by the Cabinet there have already been cases of refusal to foreigners to enter Crimea, and the denial of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was badly motivated. Thus, it is quite difficult for journalists, human rights activists, lawyers from other countries to get to Crimea.
"After adoption of the decree, foreign missions, human rights activists cannot go to Crimea. If they need to get an official permit by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, then there will be written in the permit that they go to Crimea to participate in protecting the national interests of Ukraine, to provide peaceful resolution of the conflict and the liberation from the occupation of the territory of Ukraine or on humanitarian policy. Do you think that Russian border guards will really be happy to have such guests? It will be a clear marker for the Russians", - the expert S. Zayets believes.
The rules of crossing the Crimean border by Ukrainians minors (under 16 years) have also changed. If they want to go to Crimea now, the order of crossing the state border of Ukraine is valid for them now.
As you know, since April 1st, 2015 a child needs a separate children's passport for going abroad, respectively, any minor can go to Crimea only with such a document. If, before April 1st, 2015, the child has already been registered in the passport of one of the parents, he/she will be able to leave the territory of Ukraine when accompanied by a parent. In the latter case, there must be also a notarized statement from the other parent, that he/she does not object the trip.
But the most difficult is that minors need children Ukrainian passport to go from Crimea to Ukraine, and the question where you can get it on the occupied peninsula. Parents just have to go, for example to Kherson, where they can get the document and then go back, and only after that the child will be allowed to go to Ukraine. By the way, you can’t get a passport in 1-2 days, it takes at least a week (urgently).
At the same time lawyers say that the new procedure, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers, are contrary to other previous laws of Ukraine, as well as violate human rights.
"I have to talk about the low level of legal and specialized training of civil servants who are responsible for the development and adoption of regulatory legal acts that restrict human rights. I hope that it is the ignorance of human rights that led to the development of the procedure of entering and leaving the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine. I hope that this is not prepared actions to harm the interests of the state as a whole", - considers the expert of the Regional Centre for Human Rights Roman Martynovsky.
According to Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine "On establishing the free economic zone of "Crimea" and the characteristics of the economic activity on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine", the procedure of crossing the administrative border with Crimea is set up taking into account the Law of Ukraine "On ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens and legal regime on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine".
And Article 10 of this law confirms the right of Ukrainian citizens to free and unimpeded entry and exit to the temporarily occupied territory through control checkpoints when Ukrainian citizenship is confirmed.
"Thus, when adopting bylaws 367 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine again exceeded its powers, and as citizens' rights to the freedom of movement have been infringed" - said Roman Martynovsky.
How transport operators get round the Ukrainian legislation
At the end of December 2014 the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine decided to cease road transport to Crimea.
"For safety reasons since December 26th road transport to Crimea is ceased. From now on, transport operators and owners of bus stations have to stop the sale of tickets and the transportation of passengers on bus routes that connect mainland Ukraine with the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea", - said the Ministry.
At the same time Ukrainian and Russian transport operators have found a way to get round this prohibition.
In social networks you can find dozens of groups, which offer regular trips from mainland Ukraine to occupied Crimea and back. For example, a trip from Kiev to Sevastopol is 1000 hryvnia, and the transfer of small parcels will cost 500-800 hryvnia.
You can see ads offering a trip from Kiev to Simferopol even in the Kiev underground.
OstroV called one of the transport operators for an official commentary, but in a fairly rude manner they said that "they don’t break the law".
"We did not break the law ... If you have questions, call someone else. Let's not spoil the lives of people" - said they.
Lawyer of the Crimea SOS public initiative Denis Savchenko in his comments to OstroV explained that the activities of private persons on transportation of passengers and cargo on the territory of Crimea contradict the legislation of Ukraine for the following reasons:
- to conduct this type of business activities you must obtain a license in accordance with paragraph 24 of Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine "On licensing of economic activities", and majority of transport operators, which offer a trip to Crimea, don’t have a license.
- even when there is such a license, transportation to the peninsula is prohibited by a decree of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine on December 26, 2014. Transport operators, crossing the administrative border, present their travels as irregular. That is why passengers are deprived of the opportunity to defend their rights and affect the transport operator by legal methods.
Transport operators just leave passengers outside the control checkpoints, pass as individuals, and people cross the border on foot, and then the driver waits for them close to the checkpoint. At the same time no taxes are paid, because officially they do not conduct regular transportations.
How to get to Crimea. The story of one trip
There are several ways how to get from Ukraine to Crimea. The simplest of them is by car. For example, the trip from Kherson (train station) to Simferopol will cost 3,500 hryvnia per car if you use services of private transport operators.
The second way is to travel by bus, which departs from the railway station in Kherson and reaches the border of Kherson region and Crimea. On arrival, passengers cross the administrative boundary line on foot, then the same bus picks up passengers approximately 150 meters away from the checkpoint and brings them to Simferopol.
Another way is to get to Crimea by bus from the long-distance bus station in Kherson, it will cost 600 hryvnia per ticket.
According to Crimea SOS, earlier, in particular a week ago, passengers could go by bus from Kherson to the border for 200 hryvnia. After that, they crossed on foot the buffer zone and took another bus was on the peninsula, after passing the customs of the Russian Federation.
The third way is suburban diesel train from Nikolaev to Vadim station in Kherson region departs from the railway station in Kherson daily at 8:00 and 20:00. The distance from the Vadim station to the checkpoints on the administrative border in Armyansk is about 7-8 km. You can get to the checkpoint in Armyansk by local taxis. Then you can take the commuter train Armyansk - Simferopol (with a change in Dzhankoy) at 7:15 am in Armyansk.
In the end, you can find many advertisements of private transport operators that offer travel (direct) from different cities of Ukraine to Crimea in the social networks.
The Crimean dweller Svetlana told OstroV about her last trip from Sevastopol to Kiev.
"In the middle of June I had to go to Kiev on business. I found a private transport operator on the internet and made a deal in advance, I was told that the trip will cost 3000 Russian rubles. They drive once a week. It turned out to be an ordinary vehicle, they had no license. It was not the company, it was an ordinary person, not even a private entrepreneur. The conditions were as follows: we travel to the Russian checkpoint, we get out near it, walk and tell the border guards that we go on foot to Ukraine on business. We were not allowed to say that we are all together brought by the driver. The driver himself drove calmly through the checkpoint as a private person. As a result, we passed the Russian checkpoint, I showed my Ukrainian passport with Sevastopol residence, I was asked why I didn’t have a Russian passport, not only I, but all the others, said we hadn’t had time to get a Russian one. It is still valid. At the Ukrainian checkpoint the border guards also asked the purpose of the trip, we told that we were going to see relatives. After that we went forward a bit, where the driver was already waiting for me. All in all it took about 3 hours, and despite the fact that there was no congestion at the border, we were lucky. Then we just went to Kiev. Of course, the road was tiring and uncomfortable, but there was no alternative", - she said.
In general, the person, who needs to get from Crimea to the Ukrainian mainland and back, will find ways to do it. Another question is that Ukraine plays into the hands of the aggressor in this issue. Whereas previously only Russian put a spoke in the wheels of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea in every possible way, now Ukraine complicates the lives of Ukrainians who stayed on the peninsula. Our country shows in this way that the slogan "Crimea is Ukraine" increasingly loses its relevance, and the theory that Crimea will be a bargaining chip in dealing with the conflict in Donbass is becoming more realistic.
According to OstroV, now the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine is developing changes in the procedure for crossing the checkpoints to the occupied peninsula. It is expected that the rules of entry and exit from and to Crimea will be furtherly tightened. This is done, as always, in a secret mode, without discussion with the public.
Andrey Andreyev, OstroV