Russian Kelptocracy at Work in Crimea – Corporate Raiding. Ukrainian Speakers Threatened. Demanding Pensioners.

“While the people of Simferopol celebrated Russia’s annexation of Crimea, 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre on Balaklava Street another Russian invasion was under way – this time of a private business.

A group of heavily-armed suspected Russian soldiers in ski masks on Tuesday stormed the Bogdan Avto-Salon, a Hyundai and Subaru dealership in a quiet suburb of the city, taking control of its offices and salesrooms. The men, who later stood guard along the salon’s perimeter fence, refused to identify themselves to reporters and waved them away with guns.

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the dealership targeted in Tuesday’s raid was owned by a partner of Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian oligarch, who backs the new government in Kiev.

Whatever ends up happening to the Bogdan Avto-Salon, one thing is clear: Crimea’s choicest state assets have already been taken over by pro-Russian forces in the peninsula, and will ultimately be controlled by Moscow.

These include Chornomornaftogaz, which pumps oil and gas from the Black Sea, and the Feodosia Oil Products Supply Co, which is one of Ukraine’s main transshipment facilities, capable of transferring crude oil and products from ocean-going tankers on to freight trains.

Other assets now up for grabs are Artek, a legendary Soviet-era children’s summer camp, and the many sanatoria and hotels on Crimea’s sunny coast, which are owned by Ukrainian ministries and trade unions.

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Older people said they hoped joining Russia would bring a better standard of living. “My pension is just 1,100 hrivnias a month (about $116), and half of it goes on utility bills,” said Galya Zhukovskaya, who is from Bakhchisaray. “Putin keeps raising pensions for Russians.”

But among Crimea’s 350,000 ethnic Ukrainians, many of whom did not vote for union with Russia, the mood was different. Yulia Yavorskaya recently drove her 13-year-old son hundreds of miles to Kiev, where he is now living with family friends, because she feared armed clashes might break out in Crimea. She thinks her whole family may now have to pack up and leave the peninsula altogether.

. . . .

Miroslava Zakladnaya, a 67-year-old pensioner who is originally from Lviv in western Ukraine, says she witnessed a row in a Simferopol bus last week when a man started speaking Ukrainian on his mobile phone and was loudly told by fellow passengers to switch to Russian.”

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