Vladimir Putin is everywhere in Crimea these days. His face stares down from the rows of T-shirts cluttering market stands in Sevastopol, which boast tough-guy slogans like “The person who offends us won’t live for more than 3 days!” His portrait graces banners and clothes, and the Russian president is regularly broadcast on Crimean TV screens. Rallies are held in his honor—during one this week, a citizen recited poems she’d written about Putin’s heroism and stoicism.
The omnipresence of Putin’s personality cult in Crimea is a reflection of the Kremlin’s concerted push to portray him as the territory’s savior and protector. Indeed, according to a new documentary, Homeward Bound, which aired on the Rossia television station on Sunday night, Putin personally controlled every step of the Crimea annexation last year, turning the peninsula into a “sea and land fortress.” To demonstrate Russia’s readiness to fight for Crimea, Putin admitted ordering the deployment of K-300P Bastion coastal defense missiles and said that he was even ready to put Russian nuclear weapons arsenal “on alert.”
Translation: Crimea is well protected from any outside threat, be it Kiev, the EU, or even the U.S. But as it turns out, the real threat for those living under Putin’s “fortress” comes from the inside.