Press Digest: Ukrainian activists planning New Year blockade of Crimea

Kerch Strait.

Kerch Strait.

Lori/Legion Media
RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on international events, featuring reports on rumors that Ukrainian-Tatar activists are planning to subject Crimea to a maritime blockade over the New Year period, discounted domestic holidays to encourage Russians to stay at home in January, and the search for the Kremlin’s largest Christmas tree.

Ukrainian-Tatar activists planning holiday blockade of Crimea

The Svobodnaya Pressa news website reports that Ukrainian-Tatar “extremists” are threatening to block off the Kerch Strait at the beginning of January.

Lenur Islyamov, which the newspaper describes as the coordinator of the Crimean “blockade,” said that "activists" are preparing to block off the strait in the middle of the New Year holidays.

"I can't speak about the details but I just want to tell you that we are preparing for this with all our strength and resources. It will happen towards the end of this year or the beginning of the following," said Islyamov.

Earlier, Ukrainian parliamentarian Mustafa Djemilev affirmed that a maritime blockade could be organized from the Ukrainian side on the initiative of Ukraine or even NATO.

Islyamov first began speaking about the "maritime blockade" at the beginning of December. In one interview he remarked that it is already "a military operation," adding that he cannot disclose its details, in order to keep it confidential.

Neither Islyamov's nor Djemilev's remarks would have been taken seriously, writes Svobodnaya Pressa, had the previous energy “blockade” not been successful, as partial and temporary as that success was.

On Nov. 22 activists blew up power lines in Ukraine’s Kherson Region, leaving the peninsula without electricity. Consequently, two branches of an energy bridge from Russia’s Kuban region to Crimea were immediately put to use and on Dec. 8 Ukraine launched one high-voltage power line. All this significantly helped reduce the electricity shortage, but for several weeks the situation was very serious.  

Russian airlines launch sale on domestic holiday destinations

The Vzglyad business daily reports that Russian airlines are organizing a pre-holiday ticket sale for domestic destinations, often at their own risk.

The reason is the drastic growth in demand for vacations in Russia brought about by the economy's condition. And even though currently there are more budget and luxury offers, problems in the sector still remain.

The drastic reduction in tourist outflows has not led to a general increase in the costs of a New Year's vacation in Russia. Even two weeks before New Year there are still many interesting places where one can spend his or her vacation. Inexpensive flights can still be found: For New Year flights are available to Sochi, Crimea or to Mineralniye Vody in the Caucasus for about 13,000 rubles ($185).

The devaluation of the ruble and the moratorium on package tours to Egypt and Turkey have served as a gift for the Russian tourist business. Last year some domestic resorts were all full. For example, many skiers decided to ski in the Caucasus resorts Krasnaya Polyana and Prielbrus, where recently the infrastructure has significantly improved.

Kremlin Christmas tree arrives from Moscow Region

The centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that on Dec. 18 the country's main Christmas tree is arriving in the Kremlin, where it will be placed on Cathedral Square. For the last nine years the tree has been brought from the Moscow Region.

The search for the Kremlin spruce is no simple matter, writes the publication. The holiday tree must be in line with rigid criteria: It must be at least 30 meters in height, the trunk's diameter must be at least 60 centimeters, it must have a precise pyramidal shape, it must have a full, homogenous green color and it must lack dry and broken branches.

Each year experts look for the tree using the most modern technology, including photography from space. In the summer all the tree growers in the Moscow Region show their best trees. This year there were 25 contenders, which were reviewed by a special committee. Out of the 25, the experts chose 3 semi-finalists and then the winner.

This year Cathedral Square in the Kremlin will be decorated with a 120-year-old spruce from the Istinsky company. The tree is 30 meters tall, the trunk's diameter is 80 centimeters and the span of the lower branches is 12 meters. The felling of the spruce on Dec. 16 turned into a holiday show, with folk festivities, refreshments and songs. Artists from Moscow's suburbs and Santa Claus and his entourage on their motorcycles entertained the children and the adults.

Read more: What awaits Russia’s economy in 2016 – collapse or recovery?

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