Some Crimeans Dread The Switch To Russian Rule

In Crimea, everything from the time zone to the currency is changing under Russian rule. NPR's Rachel Martin talks with resident Maxim Kornilov about his decision to leave the country.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Crimea, they are also bracing for change. In coming days, residents there will begin using the Russian ruble alongside Ukraine's national currency. They'll move their clocks two hours forward to be on Moscow time. Some will be eligible for Russian passports. But who? Will Russia also make good on its promise to pay pensions and support the health system? There's a great deal of apprehension in Crimea. We wanted to hear how people there are coping. Maxim Kornilov lives in Simferopol, and he works for an educational center affiliated with the U.S. embassy. With so much uncertainty, he is thinking of leaving the country.

MAXIM KORNILOV: I'm planning to go to Turkey, to Antalya. It is resort city.

MARTIN: I understand you are a member of Crimea's Muslim minority, a Tatar. Are you concerned that as a member of that group that you can suffer some kind of discrimination?

KORNILOV: The history showed that Russia always suppress different ethnic minorities. And I think that it will not change at all. Already people who support Russia yell at people of Tatar nationality, like go out. So, I think that there will be some discrimination for sure.

MARTIN: What are you some of your other concerns?

KORNILOV: Another one, reason that I want to leave Crimea that I am gay. The life of LGBT community in Ukraine was not that easy. In Russia, it will be much worse because there is no opportunity to live, like, honest and a transparent life in Russia where all people actually and especially LGBT community.

MARTIN: In some ways, Crimea is in this bureaucratic limbo. Is that going to make it difficult for you to move? Is your passport still valid? Can you sell your belongings and your car?

KORNILOV: I can, but it's really difficult right now. And if I do that, I'll be at a little money, just ridiculously little money for that. Because all those who have money, enough money to buy something, they will buy not full price.

MARTIN: Can you get money out of the banks?

KORNILOV: No. I can't withdraw my money, I can't pay with my credit card. Fortunately, I have some savings. And at the moment I feel like not that in despair for money but still I don't have enough money to move. That's why I'm procrastinating a little bit just to think it over, how to do the best, my moving.

MARTIN: Are you conflicted at all about moving or are you resolute in your decision? Are you determined to leave?

KORNILOV: I'm leaving, and that's it. And there is no opportunity to change my mind.

MARTIN: Maxim Kornilov lives in Simferopol, Crimea. Thank you so much for talking with us, Maxim.

KORNILOV: Yeah, take care. Thank you so much.

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