Friday, May 9, 2014

Putin visits Crimea, amidst protests by Ukraine and NATO

Following one of the biggest Victory Day parades at Moscow Red Square, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea which separated from Ukraine and joined Russia earlier this year. He inspected Russian naval forces in Crimea and met World War II veterans.

Meanwhile Ukraine and NATO among others have protested Putin’s visit. NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that President Vladimir Putin's visit to Crimea was ‘inappropriate.’ The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry stated that “Ukraine expresses its strong protest over the unapproved May 9 visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and to Sevastopol city, which are temporarily occupied by Russia.”
A view of Sevastopol, HQ of Russia's Black Sea Fleet (A. Savin, Wikimedia Commons)
However, speaking at Sevastopol, Putin spoke on how good it is to see Crimea is back in Russia. Nikita Khrushchev had ‘gifted’ Crimea to the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many Russian nationals in Crimea resented being inside Ukraine. It was annexed by Russia following a referendum earlier this year in which the Crimean people overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.

During the Second World War, the Crimean city of Sevastopol held on for eight months against German forces, thereby tying up several divisions which could have been used elsewhere by the German High Command. During the next months, partisans were active in the mountains in the interior of Crimea. The Red Army liberated Sevastopol on May 9, 1944, exactly one year before the final capitulation of Nazi Germany to Soviet Union. On that day, the SovInformBuro stated that “The Red Army’s long defense of Sevastopol in 1941-42 was a show of unprecedented bravery”

On May 9, 1945, Sevastopol was awarded the title Hero City.

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