: Road To Crimea: Ukraine's struggle continues as occupation enters third year
Society20:10 Mar. 17, 2016
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Road To Crimea: Ukraine's struggle continues as occupation enters third year

It started in February 2014 when armed Russian units stormed regional parliament

Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning a visit to occupied Crimea on Friday, March 18, according to reports in the Russian media. Putin is set to visit the construction site of a bridge which will link Russia to the annexed Black Sea Peninsula.

More than two years ago this month Moscow held an internationally unrecognized referendum on Crimea prior to the annexation.

In February 2014 armed Russian units dubbed ‘little green men' stormed the regional parliament. Soon after, unmarked forces began appearing near Ukrainian military bases on the peninsula.

Now, the road to Crimea is long and difficult. The border between it and Ukraine is similar to one between two separate states. Ukrainian soldiers stationed at the checkpoint believe the government should have defended its territory when Russian forces first appeared.

At a Ukrainian checkpoint hangs a list of products which travelers are banned from brining into Crimea. The list of goods was approved by the Ukrainian government in January. That came after a group led by Crimean Tatars staged a blockade, barring trucks with food from entering the annexed peninsula.

They also took steps to cut off the supply of electricty. The Crimean Tatars make up less than 15% of Crimea's population of 2 million. The Muslim minority is overwhelmingly opposed to Russia's occupation.

Watch also Crimean Tatar Mejlis hearing branded ‘kangaroo court' begins on Russian-occupied peninsula

Now the blockade has been lifted but the group is monitoring the border.

Lenur Islyamov, organizer of blockade: "I'm a person of business, I can negotiate with anyone. But I can't negotiate with Putin. Our people, our nation is close to being destroyed and the Ukrainian people as well."

At the checkpoint, some Crimean residents complain over low state salaries and dismal pensions. Others say despite the setbacks they are not worried about the war in eastern Ukraine.

"Crimea is calm at the moment, it's not better or worse. Life goes on and doesn't change, well it does," one resident said.

Travelers leaving Crimea and entering Ukrainian territory are greeted by two welcoming signs written in Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.

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