MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will on Wednesday check the social and economic development of Crimea at a special meeting with regional leaders, top legislators and representatives of Crimea’s municipalities in Moscow a year after its reunification with Russia.
"The meeting will take place on the first anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia but will have a purely businesslike nature," the Kremlin reported.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin’s short-term plans did not include a visit to Crimea. He did not rule out, however, that the president will attend a rally and a gala concert on the occasion of the first anniversary of the reunification on Wednesday on the Vasilyevsky Spusk square in downtown Moscow.
In the documentary "Crimea: Path to the Motherland" recently shown on the Rossiya 1 TV channel, Putin named a few top tasks to develop the region: building a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with mainland Russia, creating conditions in Crimea for development of its own power industry and reviving the peninsula’s recreational base in full.
In February, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak reported that the bridge across the Kerch Strait will have four lanes for vehicles and two rail lines, and that it will become operational in December 2018.
The Russian government has said that "pensions in Crimea have been doubled, wages for public sector workers have on the average more than doubled"; the federal target program on social and economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol until 2020 has been approved and a law has been signed to establish a free economic zone in Crimea.
In the documentary "Crimea: Path to the Motherland", Putin said incorporation of Crimea by Russia was the only possible way for Moscow a year ago. "If we had not done that then, events in Crimea would have unfolded under a scenario similar to one we see in Donbass today, or maybe even tougher," he said.
Crimea's reunification with Russia
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18, 2014.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Crimea had joined the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it reunified with Russia after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.
According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people; Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.
Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems has been actively underway since Crimea acceded to the Russian Federation.
Western nations have subjected Russia to sanctions over the situation in Ukraine. Russia has constantly dismissed accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after the referendum in mid-March 2014, as well as allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.