Medvedev announces ambitious infrastructure and economic development plan for the newly annexed region
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday outlined plans for a major overhaul of Crimea's infrastructure and economy.
"The people of Crimea have been waiting for the opportunity to have a better quality of life, confidence in their future and to be part of a strong state. We must satisfy their desires," Medvedev said a meeting with local politicians.
Accompanied by a delegation of ministers and economic advisers, Medvedev chaired a meeting with the local government that focused on investment and social development plans for the region.
As part of the plans, Medvedev outlined a series of measures aimed at improving the local economy and overhauling the region's Soviet-era infrastructure. Among the items highlighted were raising pensions to Russian levels, increased pay for military personnel, revamping the region's ailing education and health systems through the creation of a Crimea affairs bureau in the federal government and the opening of Russian banks to provide loans in rubles.
Medvedev confirmed that sufficient funds have been made available to cover the estimated $2.5 billion worth of deposits in local banks that will allow residents to exchange the Ukrainian grivna for Russian rubles since Crimea has adopted the ruble as its official currency.
Medvedev also said Crimea would be designated a special economic zone that would include major tax incentives for the region's population and investors.
Residents of Russia’s special economic zones are exempt from paying income and property taxes for the first six years.
"Crimea's people must not lose anything after joining Russia. They must only benefit from our union," Medvedev said in televised statements.
The region's agriculture and tourism industries will also receive substantial support from Moscow, Medvedev said, adding that Crimea's historic wine growing sector could expect special attention from the federal government.
Medvedev's stop in Crimea is the highest-level visit from Moscow since the region voted in a controversial March 16 referendum to secede from Ukraine in favor of union with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill on Crimea joining the Russian Federation on March 21.
Ukraine has condemned the Russian delegation's visit to Crimea, calling it a 'crude insult to international law' and 'a violation of another state's sovereignty'.
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