Putin visits Crimea to mark 5th anniversary of annexation

Putin claims Russia ‘re-integrated’ Crimea after 2014 ouster of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, puts a bunch of flowers to the monument to Vice-Admiral Vladimir Kornilov at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula on Monday, as NATO and the European Union once again strongly condemned the land grab.

Putin began his trip by attending the launch of new power plants in Crimea, part of Moscow’s efforts to upgrade the region’s infrastructure. Ukraine has cut off energy supplies to the peninsula and blocked shipments of Crimea-bound cargo via its territory after Moscow annexed the region in 2014.

“The situation has changed radically,” Putin said, adding that the new power facilities will fully cover Crimea’s needs.

Russia’s modernization effort has included the construction of a 19-kilometre bridge which opened last year across the Kerch Strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The $3.6-billion project gave Crimea a land link to Russia. Previously, a ferry crossing that was often interrupted by gales served as the only connection.

Russia has also beefed up its military presence in Crimea with new navy ships, missiles and warplanes.

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea drew U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia that hurt its economy.

READ MORE: Despite tensions in home countries, Ukrainian and Russian forge friendship in Kelowna

NATO allies said in a statement Monday that “we strongly condemn this act, which we do not and will not recognize.” They also criticized Russia’s military buildup in Crimea and alleged rights abuses including “arbitrary detentions, arrest, and torture” against members of the Crimean Tartar community.

NATO and the EU also called for the release of Ukrainian seamen who were seized by Russia in November’s standoff in the Black Sea.

Putin claims that Russia “re-integrated” Crimea after the ouster of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president in 2014 to protect ethnic Russians who made up the majority of Crimea’s population from Ukrainian nationalists. The Kremlin was also worried that a new Ukrainian government could annul Russia’s lease on its key Black Sea navy base in Crimea and welcome NATO there instead.

Crimea was first seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great.

The 27,000-square kilometre territory, roughly the size of Massachusetts, became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union meant that Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

The Kremlin has argued that Khrushchev’s move violated then-Soviet law, making the transfer illegitimate.

Russian troops swept Crimea just days after the February 2014 ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president, catching the West by surprise. The Russian forces blocked Ukrainian soldiers at their garrisons, setting the stage for a hastily-called referendum in Crimea that the West denounced as illegitimate.

Putin on Monday hailed the referendum as a true expression of the Crimean people’s will, charging that the Western refusal to recognize it shows “disrespect for democratic principles.”

He also vowed to support various economic projects in Crimea. During a meeting with local residents that involved religious leaders, Putin said he had invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the opening of a new mosque in the region and suggested also inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit a ceremony for unveiling a new synagogue.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scarlet fever reported at Victoria elementary school

Parents advised to look for symptoms of ‘strawberry tongue’ and rash

Saanich dog walkers react to potential review of bylaws allowing off-leash dogs on beaches

Focus should have remained on migratory birds, not on dog behaviour, says Cadboro Bay dog walker

No dogs allowed off-leash at Luxton Fairgrounds in Langford

New sign placed by Metchosin Farmers Institute on Wednesday, Feb. 19

North Saanich’s Deep Cove Market up for sale for almost $1.8 million

Long-time owner Rosemary Scott hopes the public will understand her decision

Council approve temporary storage to extend life of Oak Bay Fire Hall

It’s cute, it’s iconic, but the picturesque Oak Bay Fire Hall is… Continue reading

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read