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Russia raises hopes in Crimea

Russian spending strengthens the country's hold on Crimea as parliamentarians gather in the region.
Last modified: 14 Aug 2014 18:12
Putin has $19 billion for job creation and infrastructure improvements in Crimea [Reuters]

Like many taxi drivers, Anatoly likes to talk. He explains the situation as he guns his car round the twisting, pine-scented roads of Yalta. Like his rusting car, Crimea may have seen better days. 

'There are a million fewer tourists this year' he tells us, 'and food prices are soaring.' This will hit Yalta hard.

It is ultimately a tourist town. 

This year the Ukrainians aren't coming because they feel it's been stolen from them. And despite encouragement by the Russian government, there aren't yet enough rich Muscovites here to make up the numbers. 

Anatoly is trying to look on the bright side, though. He's a pensioner making some extra cash, and since Crimea returned to Mother Russia's bosom early this year, his pension has doubled.

This region was always a draw on the Ukrainian budget, rather than a contributor. And Russia is digging deep into its pockets to stop the patriotic buzz of annexing Crimea from crashing hard. 

That's why pretty much the entire Russian State Duma is here this week. 

The glitzy hotel complex of Mriya seems a long way from the ramshackle streets, and souvenir stalls of Yalta. But it's only a 20km drive into the mountains. 

The nearly finished 'pansionat' is being built by Russia's state bank, Sberbank. And it's the setting for an unusual political event. 

Russia's parliamentarians would normally still be on their summer holidays at the moment. Some would probably have been in European beach resorts or cities.

But this year there's been a three-line whip not to travel abroad. And anyway, they've just been hauled down to Yalta for some grand show-and-tell.

United Russia deputy Valery Trapeznikov tells us, 'A vacation is a vacation. But here we are needed to show they are not alone. We are together.'

Under the multi-coloured spotlights of the hotel's conference hall, this feels more like a charity gala than a parliamentary meeting. Maybe it is. 

Putin is pledging big money -$19 billion for job creation and infrastructure improvements. He's promising that Crimea's telecommunications problems will be fixed, and energy supplies will be boosted. 

He reaffirms recognition of Crimea's three main languages: Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. 

And he reminds people of the bloodshed taking place to the north - what he calls the 'humanitarian catastrophe' of the war being fought in eastern Ukraine. 

The message of this event is clear. Have patience. You're better off with us. And at least you're not being killed in your own homes.