By Vitaly Portnikov
Translated by Olya Lutska and edited by Voices of Ukraine
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation has banned flights to Crimea. Actually, it’s not even news. After the occupation of the peninsula by Russia and its subsequent annexation, which was not officially recognized by any country in the world, the issue of the termination of air communications with Crimea was only a matter of time – and now that time has come.
In practice, obviously this does not mean that there will be no flights to Crimea at all. There will be some from Moscow and other Russian cities. It’s clear that Russia will perceive the Eurocontrol decision as offensive and inconsistent with international law in its new – Russian – vision. Certainly, there will be flights. But, again, a legal nuance will arise – to what extent will large Russian carriers with international reputations be able to afford such flights (although under current circumstances it’s unclear, for how long Russia will be interested in this reputation and airline connections with the outside world at all, as things are slowly but surely moving towards complete isolation of this country). Most likely, some special fake company will be set up – something like “Crimean Airlines” – which will make the necessary number of flights without overlapping with other airlines in order not to expose them to possible risk.
In order to understand how things will really work out, it’s enough to take a look at the flight schedule from Ercan Airport in Northern Cyprus, which, as we know, is controlled by the Republic of Turkey. We quickly discover that only flights from Turkish cities are made to the northern part of the island – in contrast to the southern, “legal” part with its intense international traffic. Moreover, those aircraft belong to small airlines which were set up specifically for such purposes. After a certain point, however, the main Turkish carrier has joined those airlines as well and has started offering flights from Northern Cyprus to other destinations out of the island – but with an obligatory stop at one of the Turkish airports, so that these flights to the West are considered to be a flight from Turkey, and not from Northern Cyprus.
And it is worth recalling, in this context, that this is not about an annexed territory but about a self-proclaimed state, and that such a flight schedule was the result of exhausting negotiations which lasted for four decades of the Cyprus conflict; and Crimea has yet to live up to the settlement era. Moreover, it’s not certain that Crimea will be as lucky as Northern Cyprus, because, in spite of being controlled by Ankara, the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic still have the opportunity to decide the future of the territory depending on the opinion of the voters. By contrast, the actions of Crimean authorities will only depend on the mood of Vladimir Putin. However, it will be the deciding factor for the population of the occupied territory as well.
Meanwhile, the peninsula is slowly but surely turning into something that the Russian authorities will transform Russia into as well – a reservation, cut off from the rest of the world, with a Kremlin-falsified propagandist past, an uncertain present and a dreary future.