Thousands turned out for a fireworks display in the Crimean city of Sevastopol ending a day of celebrations marking the first anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
Earlier President Vladimir Putin told an enthusiastic crowd outside the Kremlin that the move had been taken to protect ethnic Russians and to regain the nation’s “historic roots”.
“We realised that the question of Crimea is not just a question of territories, even the territory of strategic importance. This deals with the millions of Russian people, about the millions of our compatriots who need our help and support… Thank you for your support. Long live Russia!” extolled the Russian president.
Russia’s parliament approved the annexation on March 21 last year after Russian forces took control of the peninsula, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and residents backed joining the Russian Federation in a referendum.
Putin’s popularity has soared at home since the integration of Crimea but his actions have been met with international sanctions and a collapse in relations with the West.
The Kremlin has recently underlined its refusal to hand Crimea back to Ukraine. Indeed in a show of force and defiance Moscow has sent nuclear-capable long-range bombers to the Black Sea peninsular as part of war games.