Putin Condemned For Marking Victory In Crimea
The US and Europe have denounced President Vladimir Putin’s first visit to Crimea since Russia took control from Ukraine in March.As Mr Putin arrived in Sevastopol on Friday to take part in celebrations to mark the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War Two, there were further deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking at the military parade, Mr Putin said: “I am sure that 2014 will go into the annals of our whole country as the year when the nations living here firmly decided to be together with Russia, affirming fidelity to the historical truth and the memory of our ancestors.”
He also told the West to respect Russia’s interests, including its right to self-determination.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called on Russia to take steps “in accordance with its Geneva commitments” to diffuse escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine.
In the southeastern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian troops used armoured vehicles and large-calibre weapons as they tried to take an occupied police headquarters.
Sky’s Katie Stallard, at the scene, said there were reports between 20 and 30 people have been killed, and around 25 injured. But she said it was impossible to verify the numbers.
Ms Psaki condemned the violence, which she said was “caused by pro-Russia separatists”.
“We continue to call for groups who have jeopardised public order by taking up arms and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukrainian law to disarm and leave the buildings they have seized,” she added.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said of the visit: “This provocation once again confirms that Russia deliberately seeks further escalation of tensions.”
Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it “inappropriate” given Crimea’s “illegal, illegitimate” annexation.
Meanwhile, pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine are pressing ahead to hold a vote on independence on Sunday despite President Putin’s call to delay it.
Some people fear the vote in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk could spark further violence between Ukrainian troops and the pro-Russia militants.
The separatists have already seized government buildings in about a dozen cities in the east of the country.
Mr Putin wants the vote postponed so talks can take place with the Kiev government.
However, many in the east said the referendum was the only way to prevent war against what the rebels and Moscow call the “fascist” politicians in the capital.