Russian President Vladimir Putin marked Victory Day Friday with his first visit to Crimea since it was annexed from Ukraine in March. As part of the May 9th events, President Putin oversaw a massive military parade celebrating victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
“This is a holiday when all-conquering patriotic force triumphs, when we all feel especially strongly what it means to be true to the Motherland and how important it is to be able to stand up for its interests,” Putin told massed troops to shouts of “Hurrah! Hurrah!”
Watching a military parade in Sevastopol on the Black Sea, Putin said: “There is a lot of work ahead but we will overcome all difficulties because we are together, which means we have become stronger.”
The Victory Day celebrations in Ukraine, which fought alongside Russia in World War II, were more muted with a low-key wreath-laying ceremony.
Putin was also present for a display of Russian military might in Moscow’s Red Square as part of the May 9 celebrations where parading troops included a marine unit from the Black Sea Fleet that flew the Crimean flag on its armored personnel carriers.
The United States viewed President Putin’s trip to Crimea as provocation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier criticised Putin’s plans to visit Crimea amid such high tensions.
“I think it is a shame if such a day is used to hold a parade in such an area of conflict,” Merkel said at a news conference s on Tuesday.