The Russian Chamber of Commerce (RCC) has been asked to find investors prepared to invest more than $5 billion in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, national daily Kommersant reported on Thursday.

The Economic Development Ministry is asking Russian businessmen to consider participating in "promising investment projects being implemented and planned for implementation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," the paper quoted sources at the RCC as saying.

They said the RCC received the request from the ministry this week. The list of "projects for which anchor investors are being actively sought" was compiled by Russia's trade mission in Ukraine and their approximate cost exceeds $5 billion, they said.

An employee at the Russian trade mission in Ukraine said he was instructed to compile the list of investment projects after December 17, the paper reported. At that time, a meeting was held in Moscow of the Russian-Ukrainian governmental commission chaired by the two countries' presidents, Vladimir Putin and Viktor Yanukovych, the paper said. An agreement was signed on the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait and agreements were reached on a gas discount for Ukraine.

"The list of investment projects was compiled very quickly. We sent it to the Russian Economic Development Ministry at the end of the year already," Kommersant quoted the trade mission employee as saying. He said that now "the situation is hardly favourable for starting the implementation of new projects."

The paper reported a source at the RCC as saying that issues concerning Russian entrepreneurs' participation in investment projects in Ukraine were developed in 2013 within the context of Russian-Ukrainian business cooperation. But in the last version Crimean projects were put into a separate list.

The ministry did not accompany its proposals with any explanations related to the changing political situation in Ukraine, the paper's source said. He did not rule out that the Economic Development Ministry is simply following through on old plans, the relevance of which has yet to be confirmed.

Nonetheless, regardless of the political situation, the RCC sent out the notice to all of its members, the source said.

The director of coordination, development and regulation of foreign economic activities at the Economic Development Ministry, Alexander Tsybulsky confirmed that work had begun on looking for Russian investors for projects in Crimea. He said "this is routine work."

"Crimea is traditionally considered an attractive region for Russian investors. At the same time, a decision was made to build the Kerch bridge linking the Taman Peninsula [in Russia] and Crimea. This decision, we believe, should give an additional push to cooperation between these regions. This is why we have stepped work on looking for potential Russian investors in Ukraine and in Crimea in particular," Tsybulsky said.

However, he added that "due to the events that have occurred in Ukraine, the downgrading of Ukraine's rating by international agencies, the investment appeal of this region has decreased considerably."

According to the local sources, the buildings housing the parliament and government of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea are currently under the control of self-defense units of Crimea's Russian-speaking population.

Crimea's Russian-speaking residents are forming self-defense units that will be sent to Simferopol, the autonomous republic's capital, they said.  

It was reported earlier that unknown persons had taken over the buildings of Crimea's parliament and government on Thursday morning.

A Crimean parliament source said that none of the building's security guards had been injured during the events.

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