A year after Russia’s takeover of Crimea sparked a wave of euphoria across the Black Sea peninsula, residents are suffering growing hardship as prices rise and many fear for the future.
Russia’s flag is flying across Crimea on the anniversary of what President Vladimir Putin calls the region’s historic “return home” after Russian troops seized control of it from Ukraine and the people backed annexation in a referendum.
Since then Putin’s popularity has soared – his face looks down from banners and is emblazoned on T-shirts – and some Crimeans, such as pensioners, say they have benefited.
But foreign investors have fled, the banking sector is paralysed and many other residents are struggling to make ends meet.
“Crimea will be a backwater of Russia. What’s good here? The prices are crazy and salaries are laughable,” grumbled 35-year-old taxi driver Nikolai, deftly negotiating potholes and rutted roads in the centre of the capital, Simferopol.