Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea Friday in a move affirming Russia's possession of the region. It's his first visit since Moscow annexed it from eastern Ukraine in March.
Putin traveled to the city of Sevastopol by sea in honor of Russia's Victory Day, when extravagant military parades are held to celebrate the Soviet Union's role in defeating Nazi Germany during World War II almost 70 years ago. (Via Euronews)
The New York Times notes the holiday has become Putin's way of establishing Russian power and nationalism — and describes his visit to Crimea as a "potent manifestation of his goal of reviving Russia as a global power."
In a speech to crowds, Putin praised Crimea's military record, adding: "There is a lot of work to be done, but we will overcome all the difficulties because we are together. This means we have become even stronger." (Via RT)
Meanwhile, the international response to Putin's visit has been critical.
BBC reports the Ukrainian government in Kiev calls it a "gross violation of Ukraine's sovereignty" as clashes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces continue in the east.
The Los Angeles Times reports NATO officials were quick to condemn the visit as well. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says, "We consider the Russian annexation of Crimea to be illegal, illegitimate and we don't recognize it."
Putin's appearance comes amid strong tensions that have erupted in clashes between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists — who remain in control of numerous buildings along eastern parts of Ukraine.
Friday's clash between Ukrainian police and separatists in Mariupol resulted in an estimated 21 deaths. (Via ANNA News)