The Guardian reports: It was hard to avoid Vladimir Putin at the rally in Red Square on Tuesday celebrating the joining of Crimea to Russia. As the president’s defiant speech from earlier in the day was replayed on speakers, supporters waved giant white flags with Putin’s face and the words “We’re together!”, and signs reading “Putin is right” and “We believe Putin”.
Finally, the man himself appeared on a huge stage in front of the Kremlin. Speaking against a backdrop reading “Crimea is in my heart!” while officials from the Ukrainian breakaway region looked on, Putin was briefly interrupted by chants of “Putin!” and “Russia!” as he thanked Crimeans for their “courage and perseverance”.
“Today is a very bright, happy holiday. After a long, difficult, exhausting voyage, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their native harbour, to their native shores, to their port of permanent registration – to Russia!” Putin began.
“Russia! Crimea! Putin!” chanted people with the red-and-yellow ribbons of St George, typically worn to commemorate military victories.
US and European leaders have decried the accession treaty Putin signed on Tuesday with Crimean politicians, but at home the move was met with an outpouring of patriotic fervour at rallies organised with the help of pro-Kremlin civic groups and political parties.
Police reports, which are often accused of exaggerating the size of pro-government rallies, said 120,000 people were assembled on Red Square. The state television channel Rossiya 24 reported that similar demonstrations took place in all of Russia’s 81 regions.
Attendees in Red Square said they felt pride in their resurgent country and in Putin for his decisive actions on the world stage. Frequent references to the US and signs reading “Obama! Look after Alaska!” gave the gathering a cold war feel, and it was clear who was seen to be winning this time.
Reuters reports: Putin thanked China for what he called its support, even though Beijing abstained on a U.N. resolution on Crimea that Moscow had to veto on its own. He said he was sure Germans would understand the Russian people’s quest for reunification, just as Russia had supported German reunification in 1990.
And he sought to reassure Ukrainians that Moscow did not seek any further division of their country. Fears have been expressed in Kiev that Russia might move on the Russian-speaking eastern parts of Ukraine, where there has been tension between some Russian-speakers and the new authorities.
“Don’t believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea,” Putin said. “We do not want a partition of Ukraine.”
The Los Angeles Times reports: Ukraine will never recognize the results of the weekend referendum that favored Crimea’s secession and it will never accept the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said Tuesday.
“Our land will never be torn away,” Turchynov said Tuesday, according to the UNIAN news agency. “The Ukrainian people and the entire civilized world will never recognize the annexation of Ukrainian land.”