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ANAPA AIRPORT, April 06, 17:47 /ITAR-TASS/. The airport of Simferopol, the capital of the Republic of Crimea - a former Ukrainian region that recently joined Russia - may in the future become one of Russia’s largest with an annual throughput capacity of over 5 million passengers, Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said Sunday.
The current airport compound with a few passenger terminals makes it possible “to easily increase the airport’s throughput capacity to 2.5-3 million passengers annually”, Sokolov said. “However, afterwards, it will be better to build a single terminal with account for development, designed for at least 5 million,” he said.
In 2013, passenger transportation of the Simferopol international airport totaled 1.2 million people, 8 percent more than in 2012. International flights, which then included flights from Russia, accounted for the bulk of transportation.
“Last year, Russian airlines transported 425,000 passengers to Crimea during the summer season,” Sokolov said. “We hope to increase the passenger flow during this season to 680,000-700,000 people thanks to current programs to subsidize air transport services.”
According to the minister, the air transportation subsidizing program, which covers three routes from airports in the southern Russian cities of Krasnodar, Rostov and Mineralnye Vody, will also cover Simferopol. Five airlines have bidden for participation besides Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot.
“We are also planning to increase the number of passengers by 300,000-320,000 people through redistribution of funds in domestic transportation allotments and by requesting additional funds from the Finance Ministry,” Sokolov said.
The ministry’s plans will make it possible to establish direct air links between Simferopol and Russian cities with populations of over 500,000 people in the country’s European part and in Siberia, “roughly up to Novosibirsk”, he explained. “As a result, some 20-30 cities will be able to take part in the program,” the minister said.
Besides, a default airline may appear in Simferopol in line with a proposal submitted to the Transport Ministry by the Red Wings airline, which is ready to directly link Simferopol with 15 Russian cities.
“We are working on the issue. There is no decision yet,” Sokolov said, adding that “serious subsidies will be required to ensure that the airline is not operating at a loss, as the passenger flow has not been formed here yet”.
Four Russian airports, namely Vnukovo, Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo outside the Russian capital Moscow and Pulkovo in the northwestern city of St. Petersburg, serve more than 5 million people annually in the country.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, held a referendum on March 16 in which most of their residents decided for the area to secede from Ukraine and reunify with Russia. The admission deals with Moscow were signed on March 18.
The developments followed a coup in Ukraine in February 2014 that occurred after months of anti-government protests, often violent, which started in November 2013 when the country suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave Ukraine. Amid deadly riots that involved radicals, new people were brought to power in Kiev. The new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities are not recognized by the leaders of Russia and Crimea.
Crimea became part of the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great. In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it joined Russia.
Now that Crimea has reunified with the Russian Federation, work to integrate the area into the country’s infrastructure systems is actively ongoing. A transitional period will be in place until January 1, 2015, during which the new constituent members of Russia will be incorporated into the country’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power and military conscription systems. According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people, and Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people. As of late 2013, Russians accounted for 58.5 percent, Ukrainians for 24.3 percent, Crimean Tatars for 12.1 percent, Belarusians for 1.4 percent and Armenians for 1.1 percent of Crimea’s population.