Putin Victory Day visit to Crimea increases already tense situation in Ukraine


McClatchy Foreign Staff

Calling this “an important year in the annals of Sevastopol and our whole country” Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday set foot in Crimea for the first time since the March occupation and annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.

The visit, to witness a military parade on Victory Day, celebrating the surrender of Nazi Germany to end the European part of World War II, enraged Ukraine, which maintains the annexation was illegal.

“Russia consistently escalates Russian-Ukrainian relations,” read a statement from the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs. “We insist Russia return to civilized methods of international relations, and we insist they listen to the world and end their illegal occupation and annexation of a part of the territory of Ukraine.”

But Putin was hardly in an apologetic frame of mind Friday. He began the day with a traditional military parade on Red Square in Moscow, though the size and firepower on display dwarfed parades of recent years, and brought back memories of these parades during the days of the Soviet Union.

While Ukraine, the United States and much of the international community has consistently condemned the annexation of Crimea, at home the move was a huge political boost for Putin. In fact, in Moscow, the theme of the parade seemed to be to welcome home Sevastopol, the traditional home of the Black Sea fleet of Russia, and before that the Soviet Union.

Putin has insisted that Russia welcomed Crimea back into the Russian motherland only after listening to the will of the Crimean people. He notes a mid-March referendum that officially showed about 97 percent support for Crimea becoming a part of Russia, as it had been since the late 1700s. A hastily taken down posting on a Kremlin website, however, showed far different results to the vote than the officially announced results. Those results showed perhaps a third of Crimean voters showed up at the polls, and only half of those favored joining Russia.

In Sevastopol, Putin said: “I think 2014 will also be, as the year when people living here firmly decided to be together with Russia, and thus confirmed their faith in the historic memory of our forefathers… There is a lot of work ahead, but we will overcome all the difficulties because we are together, and that means we have become even stronger.”

Victory day celebrations in other parts of Ukraine were less enthusiastic. In Mariupol in the tense Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian forces fought with pro-Russian separatists over a police station. In that fight, the Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said 21 died. He added that all except one of the dead were pro-Russians.

In Donetsk, a group of pro-Russian separatists attacked a Ukrainian military barracks at around 6 p.m. There were no immediate details of the outcome of that struggle.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

In this Wednesday, July 16, 2014 photo, exhibition hall contractors fix the Ramadan Night Market banner at the entrance of the market hall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. About 75,000 to 100,000 visitors over 11 days attend the Ramadan Night Market which brings retailers from all over the world.

    Holy month of Ramadan is a big boon for retailers

    Glitzy billboards in the Middle East and postage stamps in the U.S. Advertisements for lingerie and sales on modest skirts. Lavish buffets and cellphone apps.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps off his plane as it arrives in Paris, France, Saturday, July 26, 2014. Kerry will continue meetings regarding a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

    No truce, but 12-hour lull in Gaza fighting begins

    Israel and Hamas began a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza Saturday after the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed to produce a longer truce aimed at ending nearly three weeks of fighting.

  • AP News Alert

    EU extends Ukraine sanctions to hit Russian intelligence officials, rebel leaders: documents.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category