NPR

Exiles In Their Country, Crimean Dissidents Resist Russian Rule

Crimeans who criticize Russia's annexation of their peninsula have a difficult road ahead, and say dozens have been jailed or have had to flee to other parts of Ukraine.
Pedestrians pass by a billboard with an image of Russia's President Vladimir Putin and lettering "Strong president - Strong Russia!" in Simferopol, Crimea in January. Source: STR

On the day Olga Skripnik fled her home in Crimea, many of her fellow Crimeans were celebrating.

On March 16, 2014, separatist leaders in the Ukrainian province rushed through a referendum on joining Russia in violation of Ukraine's constitution. The controversial measure, which few countries recognized, passed overwhelmingly under the watchful eyes of a Russian occupation force that had seized the Crimean Peninsula two weeks earlier.

As pro-Russian Crimeans went to the polls, Skripnik crammed her belongings into her car and raced to the safety of the Ukrainian mainland, turning her back on her family, home and job as a university instructor in the seaside resort of Yalta.

"Because of persecution and threats, my husband and I were forced to leave Crimea on the day of the so-called referendum," said Skripnik, who now lives in Ukraine's capital Kiev.

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