Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (C, front) visits an upper secondary school in the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 31, 2014. (REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexander Astafyev/Pool)
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Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia's grip on Crimea by flying to the region and holding a government meeting there Monday, angering Ukraine and defying Western demands to hand the peninsula back to Kiev.However, Medvedev's visit taunted Western leaders by underlining their inability to force President Vladimir Putin to relinquish Crimea, seized after the overthrow of Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and annexed on March 21 .The visit appeared aimed to cement and celebrate Moscow's acquisition of Crimea, which has a narrow ethnic Russian majority and was transferred from Russia to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 .Russia has shrugged off the sanctions, though the absorption of Crimea and its 2 million residents creates a new financial burden as Russia struggles with slow growth, rising inflation, a weak currency and unusually high capital flight this year.Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said last week that Russia would spend up to 243 billion roubles ($6.82 billion) in Crimea this year, to be financed from the country's budget reserve.Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, has an estimated 55-billion-rouble budget deficit, and has relied on Ukraine for 85 percent of its electricity, 90 percent of its drinking water and much of its food.
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