April 1, 2016

Sole Ukrainian newspaper in Crimea quietly shutters its office


An elderly man looks through a newspaper at a kiosk with Russian newspapers displayed outside in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on March 27, 2014. The Crimean crisis has sparked the most explosive East-West confrontation since the Cold War and fanned fears in Kiev that Russian President Vladimir Putin now intends to push his troops into southeast Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ VIKTOR DRACHEV

Russian newspapers displayed in the Crimean port of Sevastopol in March 2014. The last remaining Ukrainian newspaper in Crimea closed its office last week. Image via CPJ.

It hardly seems a coincidence that the closing of the only remaining Ukrainian-language newspaper in Crimea last week coincides almost exactly with the second anniversary of the Russian annexation of the peninsula.

The Crimean news service Sobytiya reports that the Ukrainian-language newspaper Krymska Svitlytsya (Crimean Parlor) will move its office from Simferopol to Kiev as a result of the publisher’s inability to “take responsibility for the regular employees on the occupied territory.”

In the statement quoted by Sobytiya, newspaper employees expressed dismay over the decision, maintaining that “from the very beginning Krymska Svіtlytsya was forced to fight on two fronts: Crimean and Kiev, demanding the authority to pay attention and take the state approach to correct the humanitarian problems of Ukrainians in Crimea.” Not only will journalists who are unable to move to Kiev lose their jobs, but the statement noted that those in Kiev are “not able to keep track of the Crimean events objectively.”

The closing of the paper highlights what has been described as the increasing isolation of Crimea by the Russian government. A March 18th report by Human Rights Watch described a “drastically deteriorating human rights situation” in Crimea, made all the more frightening because “isolation has made it very difficult to conduct human rights monitoring.”

And in another sign of increasing isolation, Crimea has cut off its consumption of gas from Ukraine entirely. The Russian news site RT, which is widely described as a propaganda arm of the government, quoted Crimea’s First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Sheremet at length on the threat posed by Ukrainian gas producers, describing the construction of new power bridges that will allow Crimea to subsist solely on Russian-provided electricity.

All of these reports offer little hope that the long-running territorial dispute will have a peaceful outcome. As Melville House author Alexei Nikitin wrote in an essay discussing the current atmosphere in Kiev for English PEN, “Putin’s quiet war is depriving each of us of a part of our past. We can no longer go back to the Crimea that used to be, that we are all connected to in some way; and Crimea will never again be what it was.”



Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.