Russian prime minister visits Crimea
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia's grip on Crimea by flying to the region and holding a government meeting there today, angering Ukraine and defying Western demands to hand the peninsula back to Kiev.
But in a gesture that could ease tension in the worst East-West stand-off since the Cold War, Russia pulled some troops back from near Ukraine's eastern border.
President Vladimir Putin told Germany's Angela Merkel that he had ordered a partial drawdown in the region, the German chancellor's spokesman said. The Defence Ministry said a motorized infantry battalion, which numbers between 300 and 1,200 men, had been pulled back to its base.
However, Medvedev's visit taunted Western leaders by underlining their inability to force Putin to relinquish Crimea, seized after the overthrow of Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and formally annexed on March 21.
Accompanying Medvedev, outspoken Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin - who has been targeted by Western sanctions - left no doubt about the symbolism of the trip, saying on Twitter: "Crimea is ours. Basta!"
The Ukrainian government denounced the visit, a few hours after the latest round of crisis talks between Russia and the United States ended inconclusively, as a "crude violation" of the rules of diplomacy.