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Tour operators recommend tourists heading to Crimea to have cash on them

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) on Tuesday recommended tourists heading to Crimea to have cash on them, says an ATOR statement on its website.

Late last week, the Visa financial services corporation distributed a statement that said the company can no longer support emission and acceptance of cards in Crimea and their servicing in ATMs. Later, MasterCard distributed a similar statement. The company explained the reason behind the move was sanctions.

“Switching Crimea off settlements on Visa and MasterCard cards did not become a pretext to annul tours to Crimea for New Year holidays, but tour operators recommend to take the required sum of money in cash,” ATOR said.

“Now we are warning vacationers of the necessity to take money with them in cash. But the situation around Crimea is covered extensively, and most tourists already know about all such nuances,” an ATOR representative said.

The association said the tourist flow to Crimea from other Russian regions for the upcoming New Year holidays will be three times more than last year’s figures.

According to the latest data from Crimea’s ministry of resorts and tourism, some 4 million people, mainly tourists from Russia, have spent their vacations on the peninsula in 2014. Crimea’s revenues from the travel industry in the outgoing year totaled 107 billion rubles ($1.9 billion at current rates) and tax revenues to the republican budget from tourist facilities have exceeded 1.5 billion rubles ($26.9 million).

Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March after a coup rocked Ukraine in February.

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.

Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Crimea had joined 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 reunified with Russia after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.

According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people; Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.

Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems is actively underway now that Crimea has acceded to the Russian Federation.

The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s southeast.

In response, Russia imposed on August 6 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the EU, the United States and Norway.

New punitive measures against Russia were imposed in September.

Russia has constantly dismissed Western allegations that it could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.

Fierce clashes between troops loyal to Kiev and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April, to regain control over the breakaway southeastern territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics, have killed over 4,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee Ukraine’s southeast.

The parties to the Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire at talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.

Numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since.

A "day of silence" in eastern Ukraine began at 09:00 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on December 9. It is seen as another attempt by both parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict to put an end to hostilities.