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Pics: "Hello comrades!" - Putin celebrates Russia's victory over Nazism by visiting Crimea

11,000 troops also marched in Red Square as part of Victory Day in Russia.

Crimea Victory Day Source: AP/Press Association Images

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN took a victory lap on his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left more than 20 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote.

The visit drew a sharp rebuke from authorities in Kiev, who accused the Russian strongman of stoking tensions with his visit to Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

“This provocation once again confirms that Russia deliberately seeks further escalation of tensions,” the foreign ministry said, calling the visit a “flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty”.

In Sevastopol, Putin reviewed Russian ships in the bay, hailing the sailors on board with a “Hello comrades!” as he congratulated them on Friday’s 69th anniversary of the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II.

Putin said 2014 “will go down in history” as the year when the “historic truth” of Crimea as part of Russia was recognised.

“Much work remains ahead, but we will overcome all difficulties… because we are together. And that means we are even stronger,” Putin told a cheering crowd.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March set off the worst diplomatic crisis in the West’s relations with Moscow since the end of the Cold War.

 

Pics: "Hello comrades!" - Putin celebrates Russia's victory over Nazism by visiting Crimea
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  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: Photas/Tass/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: Photas/Tass/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: Stanislav Krasilnikov
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: Denis Tyrin
  • Victory Day in Russia

    Source: AP/Press Association Images

Putin flew to Sevastopol after overseeing the traditional Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

Addressing some 11,000 troops who marched alongside tanks, armoured vehicles and mobile missile systems, Putin hailed Russia’s “all-conquering patriotic force”.

The Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany 69 years ago has long been a source of great pride throughout the ex-USSR, which lost some 30 million citizens during World War II.

In contrast to the display of military hardware on Red Square, Ukraine held muted Victory Day celebrations in a bid to avoid violence.

The veterans marched with flowers in their hands but the atmosphere was subdued.

© – AFP 2014

Read: Russia thinks harsh sanctions imposed on its banking sector are illegal >

Read: Russia: We’ve pulled back from Ukraine border. US: No you haven’t >

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