Referendum day in Simferopol
Referendum day: People are gradually (but not en masse) arriving at polling stations. The stations are being guarded by local police. An absolute majority is voting for reunification with Russia. No disturbances are visible.
Members of the local biker gang ‘Simferopol Wolves’ are riding around the polling stations, honking and waving Russian flags (see photo). When asked whether or not this is propaganda, they ignore the question or simply shrug.
Propaganda films are being broadcasted directly on to the streets, the films give assurances that Russia will protect the Crimea from fascists and ‘Banderivtsy’. Written propaganda materials state that the average teacher's salary in Russia is 29,000 rubbles (no comments).
ATMs are not being replenished, since banks do not know what will happen tomorrow, that is why many ATMs are empty. Those containing money have large queues in front of them.
Crimean Tatars are voting despite the appeals, but their turnout is extremely low.
We are leaving for the local countryside (the Tatar village of Kamenka). Two taxi drivers refused to take us there – one Russian and one Tatar. We found another Tatar who agreed to take us to the village. After our arrival, he was scolded by locals who asked him why he had brought us Russians there. The village has 1600 voters, yet the ballot boxes contain only about 100 ballot papers (see photo). Tatar newspapers are reporting on the predictable results of the referendum (photo from the newspaper taken in Mejlis).
Simferopol. Armed patrols are visible everywhere around the city. Those patrolling are often masked. Ordinary people display quite an aggressive attitude. Compared to the Maidan (where it was possible to engage in a discussion), in this town, everyone is screaming and exhibiting their fanaticism. The ‘green men’ are not visible, but the town is full of uniformed Cossacks – ‘vigilantes’ – in bulletproof vests and red arm bands reading ‘Vigilante of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’.
Armed persons are also present on several roofs of the voting stations (according to eyewitnesses, no photo).
Comments from ordinary Crimean citizens (male, 50-55 years old, who voted for the annexation of Crimea to Russia): “Earlier, an apartment in Crimea cost the same as in Moscow. That's what we're striving for.” Everyone is hoping that Russian will lead them into a bright future, not being discouraged by the fact that even the present in Russia is not so bright. They say they will have to wait “a week, maybe a month...” – they clearly have no logical arguments for joining the Russian Federation.
Conclusion: people do not understand their economic situation. All we can see is a false economic optimism, a post-Soviet nostalgia, and a sentimental aura connected with the annexation to Russia.