Russian President Vladimir Putin took a short trip to Crimea, his first since the peninsula returned back to Russia. His visit falls on the 69th anniversary of Victory Day, Russia’s celebration of defeating Nazi Germany. It’s also the 70th anniversary of Crimeans liberating themselves from Nazi’s rule.
The day, marking victory over Nazi Germany in the World War II, has become a key display of Russian patriotism. It was marked in Moscow by a military parade in Red Square, where the Russian president had earlier told a crowd of soldiers and war veterans that those who defeated fascism must never be betrayed. Speaking on Red Square, Putin praised the Soviet Union’s fight against fascism, saying: “Our country was the one that beat the Nazis back to their lair … saved Europe from slavery.”
Putin arrived in Crimea at the naval port of Sevastopol only hours after a Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square, where he told the crowd of Russian military and civilians, “This is the day we celebrate the force of patriotism, when we all realize what it means to be faithful to our homeland and how it important it is to defend it and its interests.”
Tens of thousands of people chanted “Russia!”, “Victory!” and “Thank you!” as 1,000 troops, 60 military vehicles, thousands of veterans and other groups marched past over two hours. Putin watched an air and naval show featuring 70 aircraft, to symbolise the 70th anniversary of Sevastopol’s liberation by Soviet forces.
“I am confident that 2014 will go down in the annals of our country, as the year when peoples who live here firmly determined to be with Russia,” Putin said in his speach, “thus reaffirming their loyalty to the historical truth and memory of our ancestors.”
The Russian president added that there was “a lot of work ahead,” but said Russia would overcome the difficulties “because we are together, and so we became even stronger.
“We’re all happy to be part of Russia. Hooray for veterans!” shouted seven-year-old Mikhail Rybak as onlookers cheered him on. “It’s good that we got away from Maidan, that we’re safe,” he added.