Pretoria - The renewal that has taken place in the five years since Crimea’s re-incorporation into Russia is visible - even from space.
What is noticeable as one travels from Simferopol Airport is the work being done on the Tavrida highway which runs across the peninsula linking Sevastopol, home to the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet, to Simferopol and Kerch, from where the 19km long parallel Kerch Bridge (or Crimean bridge) spans the Strait of Kerch.
Aside from easing the movement of cars and transportation of cargo, the bridge - which can be seen from space - boasts being the longest in Europe, overtaking the previous record holder, the Vasco da Gama bridge in Portugal.
Leaders of the United Russia party highlight the development of projects in Crimea, sponsored by the government of the Russian Federation, including the Simferopol terminal building, two power plants, roads, schools, a children’s hospital, housing and investment in agriculture.
The Kerch rail bridge, scheduled to open on December 23, will facilitate transport but also has symbolic importance in demonstrating the link between Crimea and Russia.
Speaking to an international media group in Simferopol, the head and governor of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, said that while infrastructure was important, the greatest achievement of the past five years had been securing peace and security for Crimeans who had “returned home”. Their level of trust in Russia was high, he said.
Although many countries do not acknowledge Russian authority over Crimea, he expressed gratitude to friendly countries which supported Russia and acknowledged Crimea’s right to be part of the Russian Federation.
And, although sanctions, mainly by the US and EU, had restricted some activity, he said he was positive that with people diplomacy, the situation would improve.
Referring to Africa in particular, he said President Vladimir Putin was building close relations with leaders on the continent - as witnessed in the recent Russia-Africa summit, and he invited business representatives and entrepreneurs to “come and see for themselves,” what opportunities exist.
Vladimir Konstantinov, the chair of the Council of State of Crimea, said that after the referendum, the world community had not properly understood what had happened in Crimea. However, he stressed that the history of Crimea was inextricably linked to that of Russia; making its transfer to Ukraine in 1954 “illegal”. This situation, he explained, was “rectified” in the Crimean Spring of 2014.
“It was necessary to understand the dramatic conditions in Ukraine, and the need to protect the community in Crimea which indicated overwhelmingly their desire to be part of Russia,” he said, citing the referendum result and positive reaction to revitalisation of the state.