Crimeans told to stop stealing sand from beaches

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionCrimea's beaches have long been popular with Russian tourists

Officials in Crimea are warning people to stop stealing sand from tourist beaches, or else face a prison sentence.

The peninsula's beaches are being targeted by people who remove the sand for use as free building material, the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports. At more remote beaches it's being taken away by the lorry-load, the paper says.

"Everyone we catch at this needs to be prosecuted," says Sergei Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea's Russian-backed government. "When people are stealing sand in broad daylight, what exactly are we doing about it?" According to the Tass news agency, Mr Aksyonov wants to get Russia's FSB - the successor agency to the KGB - involved to help catch them.

Sand theft can hit local authorities finances hard. In February, a group of builders were charged with illegally removing more than 1bn roubles-worth ($15.4m; £10.6m) near Moscow.

But while Crimea's authorities might be fretting over the financial impact, the idea of bare beaches has tickled Russians on social media. One person commenting on the news site jokes that the beach is being washed away by an American warship making waves in the Black Sea, and another suggests officials should reinforce the sand by mixing it with concrete: "Try carrying it off then."

For Russian writer Lev Rubinstein, it brought to mind an old Soviet-era joke: "What happens if socialism comes to the Sahara? Nothing at first, but then the sand shortages will start."

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