Crimea leader visits India in Putin’s delegation
The leader of Crimea on Thursday visited India as part of a delegation led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he was seeking investors to help develop the peninsula annexed by Russia.
Moscow seized Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula in March, sending East-West relations to post Cold War lows and leading US and Europe to impose sanctions on Russia.
The United States and the European Union both imposed sanctions against Crimea’s leader Sergei Aksyonov, along with top Russian government officials, after Crimea voted in a March referendum to join Russia.
India opposes joining the Western sanctions and Putin was in the country seeking to advance nuclear power, oil and natural gas and even diamond deals with Moscow’s longstanding ally.
Aksyonov, who was elected leader of Crimea by its parliament in October, wrote on Facebook that he was a member of the delegation and had arrived in India on Wednesday.
Asksyonov wrote that he had signed a memorandum on cooperation with an organisation called “Indian-Crimean Partnership”.
The company is headed by Gul Kripalani, chairman of Mumbai-based Pijikay Group that exports frozen seafood.
The memorandum is “significant for Crimea as a new region of Russia,” he told the state RIA Novosti news agency. “This document will help long-term and mutually profitable cooperation in a broad spectrum of areas — from machine building, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and tourism to IT, microelectronics and creating science parks.”
He was meeting Indian business leaders at an upmarket hotel, a move aimed at “widening business contacts and deepening economic cooperation” between Crimea and India, a Russian embassy statement said.
Aksyonov wrote on Facebook that Crimea is “dynamically becoming a centre for investments in Russia.”
Putin on Thursday held talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said the two sides had struck a deal to build at least 10 more nuclear reactors in India.
Aksyonov was a lawmaker in Crimea’s parliament for a party called Russian Unity before he was voted prime minister of Crimea in March by a heavily pro-Russian parliament in a move not recognised by Kiev.
After Crimea voted to join Russia, he was named acting governor by Putin in April. Crimea held parliamentary elections in September that gave a convincing victory to Russia’s ruling party, United Russia.