Russian prime minister Medvedev visits Crimea

Photo: Russian prime minister Medvedev visits Crimea / Other News

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Crimea on Monday, flaunting his country's grip on the Black Sea peninsula following its annexation from Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Medvedev took several government officials with him on the highest-level visit to Crimea since President Vladimir Putin signed legislation on absorbing it into Russia on March 21.

"[I'm] in Simferopol," Medvedev said on Twitter after his plane landed in the main city in the region. "Today the government will discuss the development of Crimea here."

The visit is likely to irk Kiev and Western governments which accuse Moscow of illegally seizing Crimea from Ukraine after the region voted to join Russia in a referendum they described as a sham.

Russia's swift takeover of Crimea, following the ouster of Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine's president in late February, has caused the biggest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.

Medvedev arrived in Simferopol hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris late on Sunday and reiterated that Washington considered Russia's actions in Crimea "illegal and illegitimate".

The United States and EU have imposed sanctions on Russian officials, lawmakers and allies of Putin over Crimea. They are threatening broader measures if Russia, which has forces massed near Ukraine's eastern border, seeks to take more territory.

The vast majority of residents of Crimea - 96 percent - voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, in a referendum held March 16.

Most countries refused to recognize the referendum's results.

On March 18 Russia and Crimea signed an agreement on Crimea as well as Sevastopol city joining the Russian Federation.

A change of power took place in Ukraine on Feb.22.

The Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine ousted President Viktor Yanukovych from the power, changed the constitution and scheduled presidential elections for May 25.

Yanukovych said he was forced to leave Ukraine under the threat of violence, and he remains the legally elected head of state.

A number of provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine, as well as the Crimea did not recognize the legitimacy of the Rada and decided on possibility of holding a referendum on the future fate of the regions.

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