March 31 - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunts Moscow's grip on Crimea by holding the highest level visit there since its annexation by Russia. Mana Rabiee reports.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with Crimea's government on Monday. It was the highest level visit after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula. An annexation Western governments say was an illegal seizure from Ukraine. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER DMITRY MEDVEDEV, SAYING: "It's an unusual meeting. Traditionally, meetings of the government of the Russian federation are held in Moscow, but today is exactly such instance when I thought it is necessary to gather here, in Crimea, bearing in mind that our country was joined by two new territories." Medvedev announced immediate steps to help improve living standards in Crimea: Increasing pensions and salaries. Improving infrastructure. Boosting tourism and creating an economic zone. Welcome news for many residents of the capital Simferapol. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SIMFEROPOL RESIDENT, ALEXANDER, SAYING: "I think if Medvedev has come there must be a reason. It is not like he's thinking that we accepted Crimea and let it live its own life. No, he will be developing it. So this is right that he came to handle the matter. It is not that he is just dealing with this over the phone, but to see everything with his own eyes." But Monday's visit angered Ukraine, which continues to consider Crimea it's own. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry Spokesman speaking in the Ukrainian capitol Kiev. SOUNDBITE (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN EVHEN PEREBIYNIS, SAYING: "The visit of an official person to the territory of another state without preliminary agreement is a crude violation of the rules of the international community and the established practice of the international protocol." Medvedev's visit seems aimed at cementing, and celebrating, Russia's grip on Crimea. His comments suggest Russia has no plans to give back the region, defying Western demands to hand the peninsula back to Kiev.