Ukraine: Russian PM Medvedev Visits Crimea

Ukraine: Russian PM Medvedev Visits Crimea

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is in Crimea - the first Russian leader to visit the peninsula since Moscow's annexation of the Black Sea region from Ukraine.

He arrived with a delegation of cabinet ministers and vowed Crimea only had reason to "gain" from joining Russia.

Mr Medvedev toured a children's hospital and a secondary school in Simferopol, and held talks with Crimea's Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, before visiting Russia's Black Sea fleet base in Sevastopol.

"As a result of joining Russia, not one resident of Crimea, not one resident in Sevastopol should lose anything. They can only gain," he said.

He announced plans for Crimea to become a "special economic zone", designed to attract investors with lower tax rates, and to modernise the region's hospitals which he said were outdated.

The Russian PM also promised civil servants their salaries and pensions would rise to match the average of their counterparts in Moscow.

"That's what people want from us: creating conditions for calm dignified life, confidence in tomorrow and a feeling that they are part of a strong country. We must justify those expectations," he said.

Ukraine denounced Mr Medvedev's visit - without Kiev approval - as a "crude violation of the rules of the international community".

Meanwhile, according to reports, Ukraine said it had noticed a gradual withdrawal of Russian troops with only 10,000 soldiers remaining near the border by Monday morning.

The development came after US Secretary of State John Kerry said America and Russia had agreed on the need for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis.

But there was no breakthrough following four hours of talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Paris on Sunday night.