In a publicity gesture in November, Sergei Aksyonov -- the Russian-installed head of Ukraine's Crimea region -- visited frontline Russian forces on mainland Ukraine last month and delivered to them socks and other basic goods.
"I visited the region controlled by our warriors, once again bearing gifts," Aksyonov reported. "We brought two truckloads of essentials -- socks, clothes, medicine, generators, and so on. We also brought our defenders televisions."
Crimea -- which Russia has occupied since 2014 -- has been a key staging area for the Russian military since Moscow launched its massive invasion of Ukraine in February. Troops, weaponry, equipment, and supplies have been funneled through the peninsula over the Russian-built bridge that spans the Kerch Strait and by sea.
But in recent months, Moscow has ramped up efforts to mobilize the peninsula's resources in support of the war against Ukraine. In late October, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a heightened state of security for regions bordering Ukraine and for Crimea. Under Putin's order, occupation authorities in Crimea have expanded authority to "requisition civilian infrastructure to meet the needs of the armed forces," according to international security consultants Crisis24.
Virtually all the major enterprises on the peninsula are working under the occupation-authority slogan "For Russia's Victory," and increasingly small businesses and civilian organizations, including schools, are being harnessed to provide basic supplies to Russia's ill-equipped army. Shortly after Putin announced military mobilization in late September, the local offices of Russia's ruling United Russia political party began collecting supplies for the troops from Crimean civilians.
The region's efforts to send the most basic supplies to the troops seem to confirm reports that Russia has had difficulty equipping the force that officials routinely call "the No. 2 army in the world."
Candles And Croissants
A report from a media outlet linked to the occupation authorities on November 17 said that "Crimean organizations and enterprises have directed their work toward aiding the front."
"The production of a plant in [regional capital] Simferopol is being used for ground, air, and space weapons…. Crimean bakeries are sending pies and croissants to the front. Simferopol college students are sewing raincoats for the military," the report asserted. "Volunteers from across Crimea are making borscht, producing candles, and knitting socks."
In a social-media post on December 6, Aksyonov reported the shipment of "humanitarian aid" to Russian ground forces, including "gas stoves and canisters, portable heaters, thermal underwear, warm clothes, sleeping bags, medicines, groceries, and hygiene products."
In the northern Crimean town of Krasnoperekopsk, United Russia has organized schoolchildren and their parents to assemble individual care packages for soldiers. The modest effort yielded only 16 packages that included "groceries, warm socks, hygiene products, and medicines," according to a party press release. The party said it also was sending "chainsaws, motor oil...and winter clothes."
"The [self-proclaimed occupation] Education Ministry is sending messages to chat groups of Crimean schools calling on them to participate in the production of hats, balaclavas, and earmuffs for the troops...," said Eskender Bariyev, head of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center. "Parents and students have been asked to submit three bolts of khaki, dark-gray, dark-brown, or black fabric per classroom by December 12. Those who know how to knit are asked to bring in finished goods by December 16."
"They are begging and pulling everything they can from the public for the war," Bariyev concluded, arguing that providing such assistance amounts "to supporting crimes against humanity and participating in them."
'Everything For The Front'
The Fiolent electronics factory in Simferopol has switched exclusively to producing for the Russian Defense Ministry, Aksyonov wrote on social media after visiting the factory on November 9. "We will continue working for the benefit of our motherland," he wrote. "Everything for the front. Everything for victory!"
The Kyiv-based Ukrainian administration of Crimea has also noted the mobilization of the region by the occupation administration, writing on December 5 that a Simferopol factory that formerly produced sidewalk tiles was now producing anti-tank obstacles.
In late November, Aksyonov announced a program of subsidized loans for "the producers of basic goods for our warriors." The program targets producers of "clothing, uniforms, equipment, personal hygiene products, pharmaceutical and medical goods, bedding, radio equipment, and surveillance equipment."