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Russia pulls back a battalion from Ukraine border

By Vladimir Isachenkov

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 31 2014 4:01 p.m. MDT

But making no mistake about Russia's view of the peninsula, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted a photo of himself upon arrival with the words "Crimea is ours, and that's that."

Russia's defense minister, meanwhile, announced that all Crimean men of conscription age will get a deferral from the draft for one year.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March after a hastily called referendum just two weeks after Russian forces took control of the Black Sea region. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote.

The annexation came after Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in February and fled to Russia following months of protests. Russia claims the ouster was a coup and that the new Ukrainian authorities are nationalist fascists who will abuse Ukraine's large ethnic Russian population.

To keep its influence over eastern and southern Ukraine, Russia has pushed for Ukraine to become a federation where regions would have broad powers. The U.S. says it's up to Ukrainians to determine the structure of their government, not Moscow.

Medvedev said Russia will create a special economic zone in Crimea — a peninsula of 2 million people — that will include incentives for business with lower taxes and simpler rules, and will develop the region as a top tourist destination.

"We must create a new investment history for Crimea, which will be more successful than what it has been," Medvedev said.

Medvedev particularly emphasized the need to ensure a stable power supply for the peninsula. Crimea currently gets about 80 percent of its electricity and a similar share of its water from Ukraine, and power cutoffs last week raised fears that the Ukrainian government could use energy as a weapon to bargain with Russia.

Medvedev said Russia already has made sure that Crimea has enough backup power capacity to ensure an uninterrupted electricity supply. He added that Russia will work on long-term solutions to Crimea's energy problem that could involve linking the region to Russia's power grid or developing local power generation.

In Kiev, a member of the radical nationalist group Right Sector was detained late Monday over his involvement in a shooting near a restaurant adjacent to Independence Square, which saw many of the protests that culminated in Yanukovych's ouster. Many activists have remained encamped there and have signaled their intent to remain until the election of what they deem to be a legitimate government.

Officials said a city government official was among three people injured in the incident. Police later surrounded the Dnepr hotel in central Kiev, which Right Sector has commandeered as it headquarters, in an effort to persuade the group to hand over any weapons in its possession.

Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Jim Heintz in Moscow, Nedra Pickler in Washington and Matthew Lee in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.

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