It’s not often that I go to forums, conferences, etc, however I made an exception for the recent ‘Friends of Crimea’ forum in Yalta, about Crimea in the international context, held on 6th and 7th November here.
I went simply as an invited guest, taking a few photos along the way (here), listening all day to the speeches, discussions, plenaries, and more. I can only impart positive take-aways from the event, which attracted 90 guests, from 30 countries.
Albeit there were no official, as in government-sent delegations, there were plenty of politicians, political figures, journalists, businessmen and in general, interesting people. Looking through the sheaf of business cards I collected at the event, there are those from Serbia, Sweden, India, and more. Actually there were two other guests from the UK too.
The day itself, actually there were two days – the first official reception, conferences, plenaries, the second excursions around Crimea, which for all the will in the world, I was unable to make due to having video edits to work on – the results of which you’ll be seeing very soon. Anyway, without wishing to brown-nose anyone in any way, the event was excellent. Really of the highest order, great hotel, atmosphere, proper top brass reception, with the Prime Minister and most all high-ranking Crimean politicians present, giving speeches, at the legendary Livadia Palace, home to the original Yalta Conference, no less.
What was achieved? Well the event gained extensive coverage in Russian media, but it must be said was not hugely covered by western. However, a group called ‘Friends of Crimea’ has now been founded, with plans to develop the forum, and hold it on yearly basis, along with other events to bring the reality of Crimea to a wider western audience, from those who’ve actually come to see it for themselves, rather than through the prism of all the propaganda surrounding Crimea.
Actually, speaking to guests there, with the atmosphere friendly, and open, for many of them it was indeed their first time on the peninsula. Impressions were across the board positive, despite this being an autumn in which there’s even snow on the mountains around Yalta, rather than the sun-drenched beaches one would more commonly associate with Crimea, with guests particularly citing the warm welcome extended to them by Crimeans.
On a personal note, I was happy to see some colleagues I’d not seen for quite some time, covering the event, and meet some interesting new people, who had some interesting proposals for areas of reportage. The day was extremely productive, engaging, and positive.
Of course, however, you can’t quite let it pass by without the irony that all the people who should have been there, who would have been more than warmly received, sat it out and would rather watch on from a distance passing off distance disinformation and propaganda.
Of course Ukraine did what they could to try to wreck the event, putting political pressure on those attending, but it didn’t have any discernible effect on the day.
But, that’s the world we live in. However, there is something to be said for those being there being those who actually wanted to come, rather than were sent, and, as I say, 90 guests from 30 countries and the biggest international event held in Crimea since reunification with Russia, are reasons to be cheerful!