KIEV- Beyond Sunday’s referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia, one big question looms: how viable will the disputed peninsula be if it decides to split from Ukraine?
A week before the vote, a senior Russian lawmaker said Moscow was ready to provide more than $1 billion to the strategic Black Sea region, which is now under de facto Russian control.
Ukraine’s Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak meanwhile vowed that Kiev will continue to “cover all budgetary expenditures in Crimea… Crimea will be financed as normal.”
All this money talk is indicative of the peninsula’s reliance on outside help to survive.
A rugged peninsula of two million people in Ukraine’s south, slightly smaller than Belgium, Crimea gets 85 percent of its water supplies and 82 percent of its electricity from the mainland, said Mihaylo Gonchar, an energy expert with Kiev’s Nomos Centre.
State-owned company Chornomornaftogaz extracts 1.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Black Sea every year, but this just about covers Crimea’s needs, he told AFP.
This will pose a major problem if Russia does take over the strategic region, the analyst warned.
“Russia will not be able to provide short-term compensation for Ukrainian resources to the Crimean peninsula because infrastructure connections do not exist between Russia and Crimea,” he said.
A bridge project that has long been in the planning stages will not be ready for years.
“There will be bad consequences for Crimean s in any case” if the peninsula is annexed by Russia, Gonchar warned.