UN chief to visit Russia, Ukraine

Putin orders Crimea pensions be brought in line with Russia; Ukrainian MPs force TV boss to resign

Putin orders Crimea pensions be brought in line with Russia; Ukrainian MPs force TV boss to resign

NEW YORK - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to visit Moscow and Kiev respectively as part of diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the soaring tension between the West and Russia after the latter's moves to annex Crimea.

Ban will visit Russia on Thursday before heading to Ukraine for Friday, his spokesperson announced in a written note to correspondents.

In his visit to Moscow, he will meet with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior officials, the statement said.

Meanwhile, a new signboard - with "State Council of the Republic of Crimea" written on it - has been erected on Crimea's parliament building on Wednesday.

An Anadolu Agency correspondent at the scene reported Russians taking photographs showing them standing proudly in front of the building.

The original nameplates on the building were removed by pro-Russian groups on Tuesday after President Putin and the leaders of the Crimean parliament signed a formal agreement on the region's official annexation to Russia.

The move came after the strategic peninsula declared independence from Ukraine and opted to join the Russian Federation following a controversial referendum on Sunday in which 97 percent of voters backed the move.

In another development, Putin has ordered his labor minister to bring retirement pensions in Crimea to the same level as Russia.

Putin gave the order on the grounds that people in Crimea would be Russian citizens after the completion of legal proceedings, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

Meanwhile, two Ukrainian lawmakers have been filmed raiding the building of a state-run television channel and forcing its director-general to sign a letter of resignation.

Ukrainian deputies Igor Miroshnichenko and Bogdan Beniuk – together with a group of right-wing All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" members  – stormed Channel 1 and forced Alexander Panteleymonov to step down.

A Svoboda representative stated that Panteleymonov was an ally of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and that broadcasts made by Channel 1 under his administration were pro-Russian.

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