Sergey Valeryevich Aksyonov, the ‘Prime Minister’ of the ‘Republic of Crimea’, former Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia, visited India on Thursday as a member of President Vladimir Putin's delegation, a move that could irk the west.
Indian government sources said Aksyonov was not there as part of any of the official meetings, but could have come on a private visit. They also said he could have met some businessmen in that capacity only.
India does not support Western sanctions against Russia, and had earlier said understand “legitimate Russian concerns” over the Ukraine crisis.
Aksyonov had checked into a city five-stat hotel and he also met Gul Kripalani, a Mumbai-based businessman. Speaking to reporters after signing a memorandum of understanding to promote business, Aksyonov said his visit had a “private character” and he did not take apart in any official events. But what could trigger a controversy is his tweet that he had come to India as "a member of the delegation under the leadership of the president of the Russian federation, Vladimir Putin"
Aksyonov had presided over the referendum to join Russia that was recognised by Moscow. Both Kiev and the West say it was rigged. It is also learnt that Russian embassy officials were with Aksyonov.
Russian embassy had invited reporters to a signing ceremony only to cancel late in the evening. Kripalani, who said his Pijikay Group turns over about 150 million euros ($190 million), signed the memorandum on behalf of the India-Crimean Partnership - a previously unknown group that he said represented five businesses. “I just wish they would all work together," said Kripalani.
(with agency inputs)