Mikhail left the peninsula for Kyiv long before the annexation, but he never changed his household registration in the Crimea. After the occupation, he periodically travels to the Crimea to his parents with a Ukrainian passport with a Sevastopol registration. And until recently, he managed to pass the "border" without any problems.
"There is an unspoken rule that all Crimeans know: it is better to travel to Ukraine from the Crimea and back only with a Ukrainian passport. And if there is a Crimean registration there, Ukrainian and Russian border guards let you through without any problems. However, in recent months (starting from June) I’ve often heard that Russian border guards began to pick on people with Ukrainian passports with a Crimean residence permit. They say, since you’re locals, get a Russian passport. Although they understand that Ukrainian border guards will never let in a person with a Russian passport issued in the Crimea", - he told OstroV.
During the passage of the Crimean "border" in early September, the Russian border guards found fault with Mikhail's Sevastopol residence in the Ukrainian passport for the first time. One of the Russian border guards said that they might not let him in the next time.
"They even suggested filling out a migration card to enter as a foreigner. This happened to me for the first time", - he says.
Anti-Ukrainian sentiments also have intensified recently. Local media plays the decisive role in this. According to the inhabitants of the peninsula, since the end of July, local newspapers and television channels began to pay more and more attention to the Ukrainian topic.
"For example, there are more TV news stories about Ukrainian economic contraction, rising of utility prices, banning the Russian language. They talk less even about the Donbass, but they are talking about Ukraine and how bad everything is there", - Yekaterina, the resident of Simferopol, told.
And after the tragedy in Armyansk, the mass media "just went nuts" and began to accuse Ukraine "of all mortal sins" with a new force.
Locals (with different political views) from different parts of the Crimea told OstroV about how anti-Ukrainian sentiments on the peninsula have intensified in recent months.
"Tragedy in Armyansk at the fault of Ukraine"
On the night of August 24-25, residents of the small Crimean town Armyansk felt a sharp chemical smell, began to complain of problems with breathing, coughing, rashes, rust and "sticky brown substance" everywhere. Locals immediately started talking about emissions at the Crimean Titan plant, which belongs to the Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.
Later this information was confirmed: on the night of August 24, there was a leak of sulfurous anhydride at the plant, after which an oily bloom with a yellow tinge formed on the roofs of houses and leaves of trees of the town and nearby villages.
At first, the local "authorities" blamed the heat and lack of rain.
"According to preliminary research data, the cause of the leak of the substance is the evaporation of the contents of the acid storage tank used by the branch office of Titan Investments LLC. It was promoted by a prolonged increase in the air temperature, a prolonged absence of precipitation, and a decrease in the water level in the acid storage tank", - the so-called deputy prime minister of the peninsula Igor Mikhailichenko told.
The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine also responded to this incident and stated that this happened due to the shells falling into the technological tanks during the training of the units of the Russian armed forces.
"According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, on August 13-19 of this year, during training, units of the Russian Armed Forces conducted firing in the areas of settling reservoirs of titanium and alkali-works. Due to shells hit, these objects were damaged, which led to a significant deterioration of the environmental situation in the entire north region of the occupied Crimea", - said Defense Minister Dmytro Hutsuliak.
Ukraine even temporarily closed Kalanchak and Chaplynka checkpoints on the border with the Crimea to "preserve the life and health of the State Border Service staff".
Initially, the Russian authorities tried to hush up this topic, stating that the situation was under control and that nothing threatened people's health. However, the constant complaints of the Armyansk residents on the deterioration of health and videos of rust from locals did not allow it.
Due to the fact that they could not hush up this topic, the "local authorities" decided to place the entire fault on Ukraine.
According to local residents, at some point, all the Crimean media began to talk about the fact that it was Ukraine’s fault.
Firstly, it is the Ukrainian oligarch Firtash who owns this plant.
Secondly, the Ukrainian government has driven the plant into such a state that it has become dangerous for others.
Thirdly, due to the shut off of the North-Crimean Canal by Ukraine and the lack of water on the peninsula, the settling reservoir with hazardous substances dried up and leaked.
And, perhaps, the most absurd explanation: Ukrainian saboteurs committed sabotage at the plant. This version was not officially announced on major TV channels, however, it appeared several times in local news.
"Ukraine is blamed for everything. It got to the point that an expert at one of the local TV programs told that Ukrainian saboteurs were to blame for everything. And Russia is officially silent about this in order not to provoke a war. I saw the same version in the Vecherniy Krym newspaper", - a resident of Simferopol says.
This information was confirmed by residents of other settlements of the Crimean peninsula.
"At our workplace, everyone just said that it was the Ukrainian military who snuck in and carried out sabotage. The Crimean military allegedly said that everything indicates this. Therefore, the degree of hatred towards Ukraine, of course, increased", - resident of Yevpatoria Svetlana told OstroV.
"On Sevastopol television, it was reported that sabotage was one of the versions for consideration, including from the Ukrainian party. It seems that this was said casually and was not emphasized, but for some reason, this version remained in my head. In subsequent episodes, they said that Ukraine deliberately creates panic in social networks that people are in danger to provoke residents of the Crimea to protest actions and anti-Russian rallies. Therefore, the anchors urged to resist provocations, and the situation is under control", - resident of Sevastopol Maria says.
But the most popular version of what happened is, after all, the blocking of water by Ukraine from the mainland to the peninsula. The residents of Crimea are being confidently imposed the opinion that all their troubles are just because of this.
"It is no coincidence that Ukraine is blamed for what happened. The tragedy in Armyansk was caused by Ukraine. I think this is an undeniable truth. Ukrainians blocked our water, knowing fully well that we have no other water sources. Therefore, we have problems in agriculture, high prices on vegetables, fruits and bread, and now such a technological catastrophe has happened as well. Ukraine cannot understand that we are already part of Russia and there are no longer any supporters of the "Ukrainian". Therefore, the Ukrainian authorities are taking revenge on us, using every opportunity to annoy us. But that's not going to happen, we will tolerate as much as necessary. The Ukrainian authorities just need to remember that any patience has its end, and today or tomorrow, Russia will turn on the water in the Crimea by force", - Crimean resident Anastasia believes.
At present, an emergency rule in Armyansk (which was introduced only from September 14) has been cancelled, many residents who left the city are slowly returning, - the "local authorities" assure that the situation has normalized and nothing threatens people's health. That's weird – how did it normalize, if Ukraine still holds off water to the Crimea? Or after all, the reason was not in the water?...
"We are being told about the economy in Ukraine instead of criticizing the pension reform"
The topic of pension reform in Russia deserves individual attention. Rallies against raising the retirement age (up to 65 for men and 63 for women) continue unabated throughout the territory of the Russian Federation for several months. Against this background, Crimean media actively began to talk about the economic horrors in Ukraine.
"When we are being told from the TV screens about pension reform in Russia, they emphasize that, firstly, this is a least-evil solution, and secondly, if we had remained in Ukraine, it would have been 100 times worse. And then, a pleiad of experts say that pensioners in Ukraine go hungry, beg alms, they are being dishoused because of the debts, etc. But the most important thing is that at the end, some "expert" or "bystander" concludes that this is better than it would have been with Ukraine. In general, we are being told about the economy in Ukraine instead of criticizing the pension reform", - resident of Kerch Alexander says.
At the same time, according to the local residents, the topic of economic instability in Ukraine was raised hardly ever before, - it was mainly about the oppression of Russian-speaking people, military operation in Donbass, "atrocities of nationalists" and stuff like that.
"Recently, it seems that we live more in Ukraine than in Russia, as newspapers and TV talk only how bad is in Ukraine, and we have better situation. Not good, but better. We addressed the local branch of the United Russia party to accept our appeal that we are against pension reform. Ad got the answer: "Do you want it to be like in Ukraine?". And the dialogue ended", - pensioner from Sevastopol Raisa says.
The topic of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine has also intensified in the Crimean media. On the one hand, they claim that the Ukrainians have lost faith in the "Maidan power" and can choose a president close to Russia who can "solve the Crimean issue", on the other, that disorders are expected from on the part of nationalists.
"Recently, there was a meeting with a local deputy, where he told us that the power in Ukraine would change soon and Ukrainian products would go to the Crimea, water, electricity, accordingly, prices would decrease and it would become easier for us. We have high prices he said, only because of Ukraine, - it also organized a trade blockade, and it is expensive to carry all from Russia. So, in simple phrase, we were told to suffer a little and everything would work out. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe in it. We have just adapted to live like that", - pensioner Raisa told OstroV.
They do not forget in Crimea to accuse the Ukrainian government that it initiates international sanctions against the peninsula, so tourists do not go there, as well as foreign investors and so on. But Crimeans are being told that sanctions may be lifted soon.
"If Putin succeeds in making Crimea recognized as Russian all over the world, including by Ukraine, all will idolize him. There is talk that this can happen, if he helps return the Donbass to Ukraine and the war ends there. We believe in it. And after that, the business will come to us, and the tourists will come, and the visas will be issued, the planes will fly and so on. We are waiting for this so much", - resident of Crimea Anastasia believes.
"Russia deliberately incites anti-Ukrainian sentiments in the Crimea in order to finally tear it away from Ukraine. Look, the whole world hates Russia, does not recognize the Crimea, laughs with their "spies on the case of Skrypal family", etc. And if it does not affect the pensioners, then it is much more difficult with the youth which sits on the Internet and travels abroad. Therefore, the information that "it would have been worse in Ukraine" is being spread. Ukraine is being accused of a number of misfortunes: it left a poor legacy in the Crimea, organized a trade blockade, disconnected electricity and water, initiates sanctions against the residents of Crimea, infiltrates spies, wants to undermine the peninsula and so on. The only thing that is not clear is why Ukraine does not respond to these accusations", - resident of Kerch Alexander says.
The tightening of passage of the "Crimean border" on the part of Russian border guards and strengthening of anti-Ukrainian sentiments in the media only shows that the Russian Federation is doing everything possible so that the Crimeans cannot even think about returning to Ukraine.
Andriy Avdieyev, OstroV