I am setting aside this thread, separate from all other threads I make about the upcoming Russian Presidential Election in March; for reporting and discussion of Election-related events and occurrences specifically in Crimea.

Crimea is, of course, a very special region.

Most Western countries (and Ukraine, of course) do not even recognise it as a part of Russia.

And, so do, kinda at least two of the candidates:
Yabloko's nominee for president of Russia in 2018 sees Crimea as Ukraine
TASS: Russian Politics & Diplomacy - Lawmaker blasts Sobchak's Crimea statement as 'affront' to peninsula?s voters
Those two candidates do not intend to campaign there. Of course, neither of them intend to actually win the election either lol

Regardless, today, official signature collection began for Putin's candidacy

Putin supporters launch nationwide signature drive to secure his 2018 Russian presidential bid | The Independent
TASS: Russian Politics & Diplomacy - Volunteers in Moscow begin to collect signatures in support of Putin at 2018 elections

Many wonder why he still bothers with these silly formalities hehe

Nonetheless, the process is going countrywide, by volunteer groups, including in Crimea in Sevastopol and (actually pictured above) Simferopol.

Already, the ethnic Russian Community organisation of Crimea, headed by Sergey Tsekov, who is now a senator in the Federation Council in Moscow (pictured alongside Olga Kovitidi, the other Crimean senator)

expressed full support for Putin's candidacy, predictably.

Anastasia Gridchina, who heads the ethnic Ukrainian Community in Crimea

quickly followed suit, followed in turn by Roman Chegrinets, who heads the Belarusian Community

Gridchina and Chegrinets are a couple, btw, not officially married, I don't believe, but, they are together

They both pretty much hate the current government in Kiev; and many Ukrainian Crimean dissidents now exiled in Ukraine accuse Gridchina of advancing herself by collaborating with the new Russian authorities in Crimea; basically snitching on other, less loyal Ukrainian community leaders and getting them arrested by the FSB

They claim numerous people are now in Russian prisons, because of this woman...

They also say she doesn't really even advocate for the Ukrainian community, never, for example, speaking out against the eradication of Ukrainian language from Crimean schools. Before 2014, there were a couple dozen schools in Crimea that taught in Ukrainian. Today, one, and barely that (just one small, non-mandatory class, and it is said this too will soon disappear).

All education is now in Russian only

except some special schools for the Tatar kids, in the areas where their population is concentrated, mainly around the city of Bakhchisaray

But no more Ukrainian schools though, even though all three languages (Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar) are supposed to be co-official, in the new Russian Crimea. I have read one ethnic Ukrainian woman who lamented, couple months ago, how her son has not studied in their language since Crimea returned to Russia, and is now forgetting the language already... Which is basically the idea. Russification of Crimea.

This, combined with tens of thousands of mainly ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars who disagreed with the annexation leaving the Peninsula for mainland Ukraine; and the arrival in their place of tens of thousands of others from mainland Russia (families of many new Russian military, police, and FSB officers deployed to the Peninsula after the annexation; civilian government officials and their families; and just other people moving for business and pleasure) and thousands of refugees from Donbass as well, who hate Ukraine and all to do with it, are changing the demographics of Crimea irrevocably...

In any case, most Crimeans, especially the older generations, DO genuinely support both Russian rule and Putin's presidency

(other portrait there is Sergey Aksyonov, the Moscow-appointed Governor of Crimea)

That's among SLAVIC Crimeans.

Among the Tatars, it is, of course, much more complicated. Some do support Russian rule as well, and plenty of those are now sitting in cushy political offices as a reward.

Emirali Ablaev, the Crimean Tatar Mufti (Islamic spiritual leader), who has fully cooperated with Russian authorities after the annexation; and Remzi Ilyasov, who heads the pro-Russian Tatar group "Kyrym" and is now Deputy Speaker of the regional legislature

But, many others are opposed to it, and their leaders are in exile; dozens of them are held as political prisoners; just hours ago in Simferopol, Russian security agents were reportedly once again searching houses of Tatar dissidents

Gonna be interesting to see what goes on in Crimea in these months preceding, and during the Election. If the Tatar and Ukrainian and other dissidents will try to organise protests... or just keep their heads down, so as not to bring even more wrath of the police and FSb on themselves... I bet on the latter. Aksyonov will not allow anyone and anything to spoil the mood on his Peninsula. He would crack down even more viciously on anyone who tries to disrupt things... They all know this.