European journalists’ reportage: How does the occupied Crimea evade Western sanctions?

There are credit cards, telecommunications, Western brands and visas to Europe. The Crimean residents, local enterprises and officials have learned to evade the western restrictions imposed after the peninsula annexation by Russia.

The Polish journalists Zbigniew Parafiyanovich and Michal Pototsky after visiting the occupied Crimea wrote own observations in their reportage-investigation in the newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

Bank payments

According to journalists, it is difficult to feel in the occupied Crimea that only the Kremlin recognized the annexation. Most respondents say that they do not know any sanctions first-hand. Even pro-Ukrainian citizens consider sanctions as purely theoretical. Some people just complain about daily inconveniences in their routine. People pay cash free in the shops using the Russian bank cards issued by Visa and Mastercard.

«Since last December our bank has been working in a system allowing paying in hotels on the peninsula due to Visa and Mastercard cards issued by the Western banks. Thus people with a Russian bank card can use them without any problems», the publication quotes Pavel Zhestkov who works in the largest bank on the peninsula «RNKB».

The bank employee confirmed the question responding whether it is corresponding to the sanctions imposed on Russia after annexation. And when it comes to payments for the Western side, RNKB has simply created a system and terminals as intermediaries in such transactions. The program is called «Hotel».

All payments come to Visa and MasterCard not directly from Crimea but through the central system in Moscow. It was created to avoid partly a conflict with common operators.

The publication writes referring to its sources that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control ensuring compliance with sanctions is aware of this «pass over». The problem is today when you pay with Visa in the occupied Crimea, the system simply recognizes Russia without specifying the transaction place. That’s why there is easy because the sanctions cover only the occupied peninsula.

Schengen without problems

The same are visas. The owner of a Russian passport with Crimean registration theoretically can’t get a visa to the EU or the US. It’s in theory. The Crimean residents after annexation forcibly exchanged their documents for federal nevertheless many had left the Ukrainian passports. And they are issued a Schengen visa. It is full pragmatism. The publication exemplifies one resident from the occupied Crimea named Sergey. So he has two passports. There is Russian issued in Simferopol and Ukrainian issued in Kherson. If Sergey wants to go to Germany, he asks for a visa at the German Embassy in Kiev and gets it without problems.

To make life easier, Sergey also has two sets of car numbers. When he plans visiting his sister in Kherson, he changes into the Ukrainian numbers in his garage hangs on the car. After returning back to Crimea he switches again to Russian and avoids causing excessive police interest to him.

The scheme is simple: after annexation car owners changed the registration certificate at their own will. Being prompted by official Sergey claimed about his car documents loss. Afterwards he received a new certificate with new numbers issued by Russian officials. In Ukraine Sergey also received a duplicate of his documents based on the theft / loss statement. According to Polish journalists, many Crimean drivers are doing that.

Turned to «Russian» Crimean officials act almost the same. According to the statement and bribing they can get the Russian passport in the neighboring Krasnodar region. It is Russia and not the annexed Crimea. And they may even pass an official appraisal outside Crimea, so that none in the EU embassy even thought about heir relation to the peninsula.

Western hypermarkets

The western network supermarkets Metro Cash & Carry and Auchan also surprised the Polish journalists being presented in the occupied Crimea.

However, the Russians found a loom even here. The Polish journalists received a comprehensive answer from a management staff to their question about sanctions.

«Two supermarkets Metro Cash & Carry in Crimea are owned by a separate unit. It is the Metro Group which in turn is not owned by Metro Cash & Carry in Ukraine or Russia. Both companies work on the basis of the Russian commercial law and, therefore, are not subject to sanctions», the publication quotes the representative of Metro AG, Leiding Ray Chen.

Meanwhile headquarters «Auchan» assured that the network decided “continuing to offer certain products to Crimean people, especially the products».

«We decided not to eliminate jobs for local residents (250 people). Therefore, the store in Simferopol should work. We always work in accordance with the rules taking into account the EU decision. And this confirms that «activities in Crimea in no way violate the EU sanctions and do not contradict the legislation of Ukraine», the publication exemplifies Mari Vanoai who is from the French headquarters

«Auchan» press service.

Since the Western brands left Crimea, there immediately appeared as mushrooms the local «fakes». They took its niche. There opened the CFC Crimean Fried Chicken bar instead of KFC in the center of Simferopol, Starmaks instead of Starbucks and ruStore replaced Istore that imports «Apple» technique from Russia.

«We have no problems with access to Western clothing or cosmetics. There are lots of things imported from the continent. Earlier they called Ukraine as a continent and today it is Russia», the newspaper sums up quoting one Crimean entrepreneur.

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