While the Russian army conducts a special operation in Ukraine and bombs cities there, the Russians are enjoying their vacation. Whether on a beach on the annexed Crimean peninsula or in St. Petersburg, where thousands of costumed people have gathered for an annual festival to paddle the local rivers and canals.
Thousands of Russians gathered in St. Petersburg on Saturday to take part in the SUP festival, which sees people zip around the city on paddleboards. Some came from other cities and took their performance at this festival very seriously, such as making group costumes.
Thousands of participants in costumes took part in the annual paddle board festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, this weekend pic.twitter.com/Tm2U0Q2auY
— Reuters (@Reuters)
August 8, 2022
On the other side of Russia, on the Crimean peninsula, at that time several Russians were sunbathing on a beach by the Black Sea. As they bask in the sun, fighter jets fly overhead towards the nearby frontline in eastern Ukraine. “Of course, I cannot say that we are in a completely relaxed state,” Russian tourist Alexandra Rumyantseva told AFP.
Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, the start of Western sanctions, the suspension of air links with Europe and growing economic problems in Russia have made many popular tourist destinations in Europe and elsewhere in the world inaccessible to Russian tourists.
But even the popular seaside destination of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, is difficult to reach. Crimea and the Russian Black Sea coast have become difficult to reach due to the closure of the airspace of the southern Russia because of the fighting in Ukraine. The Rumyantsev family traveled 2,500 kilometers. He used the bridge built by Moscow to connect the peninsula to the Russian mainland. The Roumiantsovs decided to take the risk, although rumors had reached them that the bridge might explode and “many people were worried”. Along the way, they saw a military convoy, apparently on its way to the front.
Fewer tourists than usual appeared in Crimea this summer. “It seems like there are mostly locals here,” Anna Zalužná, 28, said as she basked in the sun. The peninsula is largely cut off from the world because of the sanctions, and local business people who depend on tourism are feeling the pinch. Albert Agagulyan, 69, runs a small kebab shop on the beach near Sevastopol. A retired fighter pilot said he couldn’t afford to send his child to summer camp this year. “People don’t come here because they’re scared,” he says.
Crimea is adjacent to the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, now controlled by Moscow, and nearby is the Zaporozhye region, partially occupied by the Russian military.
Although some prefer not to talk politics, locals like Viktor Borodulin say they are following Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine closely. “I am very concerned about these events,” said the 77-year-old engineer, adding that he was particularly saddened by the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva in April. Borodulin became nostalgic for the Soviet past and beamed when discussing the possibility of buying fruit and vegetables in Moscow-occupied southern Ukraine. “I even bought products from Kherson today,” he said, noting, “It’s a great pleasure for me.”