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Crimea independence: 'It is a natural fit ... this place belongs in eastern Europe'

By Kim Sengupta

Crimea's first day of independence from Ukraine saw a bewildering variety of measures introduced in preparation for the embracing of rule by the Kremlin.

The arrival of the rouble had the most immediate effect on the streets, with even longer queues at banks.

Many cash dispensing machines ran out of money and credit cards have begun to be refused for payments by many outlets. With the hryvna tumbling, dollars and euros were in high demand.

The most perplexing was the switch to Moscow time, which had not been a strong demand from even the most fervent of Crimea's Russian nationalists. In the state capital, Simferopol, the state capital, Nicolai Borodkin and Aleksei Mavrowski were digesting the changes with a late breakfast in a cafe.

Both were wearing Russian flags draped across their shoulders and pained expressions due to drinking until 4.30am.

"I am not sure why they have done that, the reason Moscow has a different time zone is because it is much further to the east," said Mr Mavrowski, an electronics engineer. "It doesn't make any difference what time you get up, there'll be no jobs to go to soon," was the gloomy conclusion of Mr Borodkin, who works in construction.

But did he not vote for unification with Russia? "Did I?" He stared into the middle distance before recalling that he had done so.

Some in business see the structural changes they have to make as causing problems and possibly crippling losses.

But IT specialist Denis Mamatovich was happy: "It was a mistake for Ukraine to look to the EU; taxes would have gone up, health care cut and we would have lost our exports to Russia.

"The Russians want us and they'll look after us. This is a natural fit; look around you, this place does not belong in Western Europe."

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