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Russia wants tourists in Crimea to travel through Ukraine war zone

Jul 18, 2023

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Russia may be at war with Ukraine, but Vladimir Putin is still telling Russian tourists they should go to Crimea for their summer holiday. However, the Kremlin is warning tourists to be mindful of the ongoing war while they travel.

After the bridge connecting southern Russia to Crimea was attacked again, tens of thousands of Russian tourists vacationing on the peninsula realized a holiday in illegally-seized territory may not be the best idea and decided to go home. The ensuing traffic jams brought travel to a halt for hours.

Traffic wasn’t just brought to a crawl at the Crimean Bridge. Fleeing Russians were also encouraged to travel through parts of Russian-controlled southern Ukraine. The Russian-installed regional leader there lifted the curfew to allow for 24-hour travel, but Russian tourists were still encouraged to move swiftly through the war-torn area and not stop.

Anton Gerashchenko, an official Ukrainian adviser, translated some social media posts from Russians describing their journey home.

One post read, “Important information for those who are going to get out of Crimea by land route. The most important thing is to stock up on the necessary amount of water. Local ‘entrepreneurs’ decided to take advantage of this situation and in order to enrich themselves increased the price by 8-10 times!”

“The situation with toilets is also miserable, free toilets at petrol stations have been closed, they justify themselves by saying that the influx of people is too large, you can make an agreement for 500 rubles, for children, pregnant women, disabled people and participants of the SMO [Special Military Operation] the price is 400 rubles”.

Some travelers complained of the lack of cellphone service, others questioned why the Russian government couldn’t protect the Crimean Bridge in the first place.

One post translated by Gerashchenko read, “One thing that annoys me is that after the first time, the competent authorities swore that ordinary people have nothing to fear, that now combat dolphins, medusas, shrimps and plankton guard the bridge 50 hours a day. F**k, how did that happen? !!!!!! Did they screw up again? !!!!!!!!”

Some travelers were undeterred, though. The BBC interviewed several Russians who said they’d be back next summer.

The 12-mile-long Crimean Bridge was built after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. It’s one of Vladimir Putin’s prized projects, and it’s the primary route most Russian tourists take to travel to Crimea. It’s also the main supply route for Russian troops in southern Ukraine, making it a legitimate military target.

Even before the bridge was attacked for a second time, the Russian government had problems dealing with tourist traffic to Crimea. Putin even ordered military assets to ferry tourists across the water.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said continued civilian traffic to the area will further impede Russian military transports in the region and will have a negative impact on the war effort.

In its July 17 assessment, the ISW said: “The Kerch Strait Bridge is along one of two ground lines of communication (GLOCs) supporting Russia’s southern force grouping, with the other route passing through occupied Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts. This sole remaining logistics route is now a single point of failure for the supply of the large numbers of mechanized Russian forces in southern Ukraine needed to resist Ukrainian counteroffensives. Russian and occupation officials have nevertheless continued to promote occupied Crimea as a tourist destination, however, urging Russian civilians to drive through and to a warzone rather than advising them to avoid it as a responsible government would.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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VLADIMIR PUTIN IS TELLING RUSSIAN TOURISTS THEY SHOULD STILL GO TO CRIMEA FOR THEIR SUMMER HOLIDAY, JUST BE MINDFUL OF THE WAR GOING ON WHILE THEY TRAVEL.

AFTER THE BRIDGE CONNECTING SOUTHERN RUSSIA TO CRIMEA WAS ATTACKED AGAIN, TENS OF THOUSANDS OF RUSSIAN TOURISTS VACATIONING ON THE PENINSULA REALIZED A HOLIDAY IN ILLEGALLY SEIZED TERRITORY MAY NOT BE THE BEST IDEA, AND DECIDED TO GO HOME. THE ENSUING TRAFFIC JAMS BROUGHT TRAVEL TO A HALT FOR HOURS.

AND NOT JUST AT THE CRIMEAN BRIDGE. FLEEING RUSSIANS WERE ALSO ENCOURAGED TO TRAVEL THROUGH PARTS OF RUSSIAN-CONTROLLED SOUTHERN UKRAINE. THE RUSSIAN-INSTALLED REGIONAL LEADER THERE LIFTED THE CURFEW TO ALLOW FOR 24-HOUR TRAVEL, BUT RUSSIAN TOURISTS WERE STILL ENCOURAGED TO MOVE SWIFTLY THROUGH THE WAR-TORN AREA AND NOT STOP. AFTER ALL THE SIDES OF THE ROAD COULD BE MINED, AND AGAIN, IT’S AN ACTIVE WARZONE.

ANTON GERESHCHENKO, AN OFFICIAL UKRAINIAN ADVISOR, TRANSLATED SOME SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS FROM RUSSIANS DESCRIBING THEIR JOURNEY HOME. TRAVELERS REPORTED THE PRICE OF GAS INCREASED TEN-FOLD. FREE TOILETS ALONG THE ROUTE WERE CLOSED, BUT FOR 500 RUBLES YOU COULD BUY SOME TIME IN THE LIEU. CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY, PREGNANT WOMAN AND MILITARY VETERANS COULD EXPECT A DISCOUNT THOUGH.

SOME TRAVELERS COMPLAINED OF THE LACK OF CELL PHONE SERVICE, OTHERS QUESTIONED WHY THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT COULDN’T PROTECT THE CRIMEAN BRIDGE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

SOME TRAVELERS WERE UNDETERRED, THOUGH. THE BBC INTERVIEWED SEVERAL RUSSIANS WHO SAID THEY’D BE BACK NEXT SUMMER.

THE 12-MILE-LONG CRIMEAN BRIDGE WAS BUILT AFTER RUSSIA ANNEXED CRIMEA IN 2014. IT’S ONE OF VLADIMIR PUTIN’S PRIZED PROJECTS AND IT’S THE PRIMARY ROUTE MOST RUSSIAN TOURISTS TAKE TO TRAVEL TO CRIMEA. IT’S ALSO THE MAIN SUPPLY ROUTE FOR RUSSIAN TROOPS IN SOUTHERN UKRAINE, MAKING IT A LEGITIMATE MILITARY TARGET.

EVEN BEFORE THE BRIDGE WAS ATTACKED FOR A SECOND TIME, THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT HAD PROBLEMS DEALING WITH TOURIST TRAFFIC TO CRIMEA. PUTIN EVEN ORDERED MILITARY ASSETS TO FERRY TOURISTS ACROSS THE WATER.

THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR SAYS CONTINUED CIVILIAN TRAFFIC TO THE AREA WILL FURTHER IMPEDE RUSSIAN MILITARY TRANSPORTS IN THE REGION, AND WILL HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE WAR EFFORT. BUT THAT’S NOT STOPPING THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT FROM STILL PROMOTING CRIMEA AS A PRIME SUMMER VACATION DESTINATION.

FOR MORE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING ON THE WAR IN UKRAINE, HEAD OVER TO SAN.COM.

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