It is the second anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin is at the Black Sea peninsula to check progress on the construction of a bridge at the Kerch Strait which will link Crimea with the Russian mainland.
Work began on the 19-kilometre bridge in February. It is expected to open in December 2018 and will be Russia’s longest bridge.
A day of concerts and parades has taken place in Russia to mark the anniversary.
Russian forces seized control of Crimea after the Moscow-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich fled power following months of protests.
Russian officials described the unrest as a “coup” which threatened the safety of its ethnic minority (60% of its 2 million-strong population) in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region.
Many Russians say Crimea’s annexation rights a historical wrong by Nikita Krushchev.
He gave the territory to Ukraine in 1954 before the Soviet Union collapsed.
February 2014: troops wearing no insignia, but said to be Russian, appeared in various parts of Crimea
March 16: referendum held on peninsula. Organisers (Crimea’s pro-Russian politicians) claim 97% want to join Russia.
March 21: Russia’s parliament approved the annexation.
Russian troops subsequently took over all military and naval bases in Crimea and took control of major businesses and banks.
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The Kremlin stands firm on its annexation.
Ukraine, the US and EU continue to condemn it.
The EU imposed sanctions on Crimea in July 2014 and tightened them in December 2014.
They ban EU citizens from buying or financing companies in Crimea.
As well as the EU, the US, Japan and other major economies including Australia and Canada have also imposed sanctions on Russia over Crimea.
In January 2016, Ukraine said it plans to launch a fresh diplomatic initiative to recover the peninsula.
What they are saying
“The European Union remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures. The EU calls on UN member states to consider non-recognition measures.” – European Council statement.
“Of course we do not feel sorry that Crimea was annexed by Russia. The main thing is we are at home in Russia.” – Crimean businessman Oleg Nikolayev.
“Of course there are difficulties, but there are positive moments as well” – Sevastopol resident Alexander Talipov.
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