Olga Golodets, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Ovsyannikov meet in Sevastopol on August 4. Photo: Mikhael Klementye / the Kremlin.

Putin Pushes Officials to Speed Up Construction of Cultural Complex in Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin is putting the pressure on officials in Crimea to finish the construction of a cultural complex in the Black Sea peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, as part of a campaign to drive up tourism in the territory. The Art Newspaper reports that the new arts hub will serve as an exhibition space for the State Hermitage Museum, the State Russian Museum, and the State Tretyakov Gallery. The center will also boast of an opera and ballet theater, a cinema, and a school of dance.

“Let’s not drag this out, all right? When will the drafts be ready?” Putin said during an August 4 meeting in Crimea with the Dmitry Ovsyannikov, the governor of Sevastopol—the historic sea port where the center will be located—and Olga Golodets, a former deputy prime minister of Russia who is charged with overseeing the project.

According to a transcript of the meeting published on the Kremlin’s website, Golodets said, “Staff of the Hermitage Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery, and the Russian Museum are involved in the creation of this complex. The central building)will be an exhibition center and a permanent exposition of the world’s artistic masterpieces, currently located in these museums.” She also said that the venue will revive the “‘metropolitan nature of the cultural landscape of Crimea and Sevastopol at a completely new level.”

The cultural project follows the completion of a major bridge connecting the Crimean city of Kerch with the Russian mainland and is viewed as the next step in integrating the peninsula into the Russian State. While the bridge has already been used by 1.5 million tourists, according to Golodets, the European Union was against its construction and had levied sanctions on six Russian companies involved with building the structure.

“Through their actions they supported the consolidation of Russia's control over the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, which in turn further undermines the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” the European Council said in a statement issued in July.