Sunday, January 21, 2018

Signs of Russia appear in Ukraine's lost Crimean Peninsula

SIMFEROPOL, Crimea — Every day more signs that Crimea is now part of Russia are reaching down to the street level, met by varying degrees of enthusiasm and bewilderment.

This week, the ruble became an official currency in Crimea, and it is slowly starting to work its way into the marketplace. Retirees began receiving their pensions in rubles on Monday.

But business is still being done almost exclusively in the Ukrainian hryvnia, which will be accepted as a co-currency until January 2016.

Several money changers and banks in Simferopol said they had run out of rubles as customers have been withdrawing hrvnias from their accounts and converting them. But one money changer operating in a cubbyhole of an office in the center of town said she had just received a replenishment of rubles and is eagerly awaiting the boon that conversion will bring.

New law enforcement groups are making themselves known, too. The Russian Investigative Committee — an agency similar to the FBI — has set up offices in Crimea, and crimes will be judged under Russian law, according to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the committee in Moscow.

But most people have no idea how Russian and Ukrainian laws may differ and feel trapped in legal limbo, human rights activists — newly arrived from Crimea — said Wednesday in Kiev.

"There's no law," said Oles Kurivchak, a human rights volunteer. "People who want to sell their house and leave can't do it. Notaries don't have legal stamps. There are no proper documents. People don't know what to do."

Crimeans who feel allegiance to Ukraine are adrift, said Konstantin Reutsky, a member of the Postup Human Rights Center. They feel abandoned by the Ukrainian government.

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