In the early days of January, the editorial staff of Propastop noticed a Facebook posting by the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, which reported an annual 9.3% growth of tourists visiting Crimea. Of the 7.43 million visitors, Germany at 7% and Estonia at 3% were in the leading positions as visitors from the European Union. The posting did not touch on the propaganda point, that with the visits, Estonian citizens were recognizing that Crimea belongs to Russia. The comments of the Prime Minister on the occupation of Crimea were added, where he stated that we would not visit territories of occupation.
The numbers put out by the posting raised eyebrows. 7.43 million tourists of which 3% were Estonian citizens. A quick calculation shows that 3% of all tourists would mean that 229,000 Estonian citizens visited Crimea last year. Totally absurd!
The link in the posting to RT.com news implies that it is purely propaganda material that seeks to make Russian occupied Crimea an attractive tourist destination and at the same time implying that all tourists there due to their visiting the area are recognizing Crimea as a part of Russia.
When searching the background of this internet news, it quickly becomes clear that this is a lie hidden in a forest of numbers and a blatant propaganda effort. The overall number and annual growth of tourists and percentages of citizens from different countries are found in the texts of the circulations. While not specifying from which figure were the percentages calculated.
In the text, Ukraine is shown with 1.1 million visitors to Crimea. The other countries are shown as a percentage. For example Belarusian citizens at 20%, Kazakhstan at 11%, German citizens at 7% etc.are reported.
In some of the texts the proportion of Estonians is 2% and in others at 4%. In some of the stories, they are treated as part of all the tourists and in other in the foreign tourist statistics.
However, the message of Crimea as a successful tourist destination is certainly at the heart of every story, and tourists visiting the peninsula is shown as a recognition of it being Russian territory.
Most notably, Radio Svoboda has questioned the statistics presented, referring to the Association of Russian Travel Agents, the Ukrainian Border Guard and, by way of comparison, to Russian tourism statistics in general, doubting both the overall number of tourists and the number of people from other countries.
Searching the background information on the internet, the source of the story becomes clear. Namely, there has been growth in numbers of tourists reported visiting the Crimea also in previous years. This seems to be part of a strategy, with narratives showing that the occupied territories are becoming increasingly successful.
In European Union countries, travel companies are forbidden to organize trips to the territories of Crimea and Sevastopol, which have been annexed by Russia. Legal proceedings have been initiated in Estonia against travel companies that have mistakenly done so.
Photo: excerpt from Facebook