The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has celebrated Victory Day by making a historic visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Today marks 70 years since the Soviet Union won back control of the Black Sea peninsula from Nazi forces. It is also Putin’s first visit since Moscow annexation.
Much has been made of the Russian leader’s surprise call for Ukrainians to postpone an independence vote. It was widely viewed as an effort to de-escalate the crisis but Kyiv authorities said his trip was a “provocation” that was intended deliberately to escalate the crisis.
“The heroic feat of the generation that defeated Nazism will always be an example of bravery, courage and unbreakable will, an example of selfless service to the nation,” Putin told thousands of veterans and people gathered.
“You, veterans, are our beacons. And you contributed, by your moral example, by getting Crimea and Sevastopol back to the motherland,” he added.
He also urged other countries to respect Russians’ interests and rights, including the right to self determination.
The Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany has long been a source of great pride in Crimea. Now with Putin’s blessing, the pro-Russian supporters have even more reason to celebrate.