Putin Arrives in Crimea in First Visit Since Annexation
The annexation provoked the worst tensions between Russia and the West since the height of the Cold War. Mr. Putin maintained that the territory had belonged to Russia ever since it was first captured from the Ottomans in 1783 and that he was only righting a historical wrong. Separatists in Crimea, backed by the Russian military, organized a referendum in which an overwhelming majority of the residents, many of them ethnic Russians, chose to come under the control of Moscow.
Mr. Putin’s visit was the first by the president since Russia annexed the territory. Sevastopol on Friday was celebrating the 70th anniversary of its liberation from a bloody Nazi occupation, while Russia is celebrating Victory Day, the 69th anniversary of vanquishing Hitler. Both anniversaries fall on May 9.
In Sevastopol harbor, the backdrop to where Mr. Putin gave a speech that lasted about five minutes, the naval version of the Victory Day parade unfolded with 10 gray warships lining up in the waterway. Television images showed the Russian president riding in a white naval launch through the harbor.
As he drew along aside each warship, he yelled into a microphone, “Hello, Comrades!” and the men, arrayed at least two deep on deck in their navy blue dress uniforms, shouted back a ritual greeting to their commander in chief followed by a rousing “Hurrah!”
People crowded the shores of the harbor to watch. After seizing several ships from Ukraine, Russia complained that they had been neglected and were barely more than scrap. The Kremlin has allocated $5 billion to refurbish the fleet.
Mr. Putin’s visit came just hours after a thundering Victory Day parade, a lengthy review of Russia’s refurbished military and advanced hardware, rolled through Red Square in Moscow. The annual event came under global scrutiny in light of the tension over the future of Ukraine.
In the parade, the tribute to the annexation of Crimea was not subtle, as the first vehicles to enter the square behind row after row of tightly choreographed marching soldiers made clear. The first vehicle, an armored personnel carrier from a Black Sea Marines brigade, flew a big Crimean flag.
Some 11,000 soldiers and 150 military vehicles, from tanks to intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, rumbled through the square. Through cloudless skies, the flyover included 69 aircraft, marking the 69 years since the victory over Nazi Germany. During the parade, military bands playing marches and patriotic songs maintained a steady, thumping background beat.
In brief opening remarks before the first soldiers marched, Mr. Putin said that the celebration represented all that makes Russia strong.
“This is the holiday when the invincible power of patriotism triumphs,” Mr. Putin said. “When all of us particularly feel what it means to be faithful to the Motherland and how important it is to defend its interests.”
Often, Mr. Putin’s annual Victory Day speech is both a national pep rally and a summary of the state of the Russian Federation, with the president using the address to emphasize important positions on foreign or domestic policy. This year, however, he stuck to just a few minutes talking about patriotism.
On Wednesday, Mr. Putin announced that he was pulling the Russian Army back from the border with Ukraine and that he wanted to pursue a mediated settlement. He also urged separatists in Ukraine not to hold a referendum on sovereignty on Sunday.
Western leaders were divided about whether his remarks represented a genuine effort to reach a peaceful settlement or were only a means of distancing himself from a vote in southeastern Ukraine and from the worsening violence there. Mr. Putin also repeated Russia’s demand that Ukraine approve constitutional changes that would grant wide autonomy to the regions.
That is seen as an attempt to continue to influence the eastern part of Ukraine, or to destabilize it if necessary, and to prevent Kiev from establishing tighter links with the European Union and with NATO.
Senior officials and state-run television have kept up a steady drumbeat since February, maintaining that the rebellion that overthrew Ukraine’s government was an attempt to revive Nazi fascism — thus making a link between Russian opposition to the February 21 ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych and the World War II victory.
Under the years of Communist rule, May Day was the most important holiday for Russians, but that feeling faded after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, particularly in the past 10 years. In transforming Victory Day into the main national holiday, Mr. Putin has sought to burnish the history of the Soviet period — notably the victory over Nazi Germany in what is known in Russia as The Great Patriotic War — to erase the sense of humiliation created by the disarray and loss of international clout after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Much of the day consists of tributes to the dwindling numbers of World War II veterans. Some got prime seats in the bleachers along the red Kremlin walls, along with hundreds of invited guests. The general public packed the avenues leading toward the square, waving flags and cheering the soldiers and the crews of the military vehicles. The parade provokes various kinds of nostalgia. When reviewing the troops, for example, Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu stood inside a convertible Zil limousine. The premier vehicle of the Soviet Union, the car has virtually disappeared from Russia’s roads, replaced by Maybachs, Range Rovers and Audis.
“The memory of the war and the great victory was a life-shaping experience for several generations,” said Ivan I. Kurilla, a historian at Volgograd State University.
But historians worry that under Mr. Putin the emphasis has been placed more on the victory itself as a symbol of Russian glory, shunting aside the more grueling aspects of the struggle that led to the deaths of 27 million, according to the Russian count.
On Monday, Mr. Putin signed a law that made it a crime to rehabilitate Nazism or to “distort” the Soviet Union’s role in World War II, punishable by up to five years in jail.
This week, Moscow was festooned with red stars — the symbol of the Red Army and of the victory in 1945 — as well as the orange-and-black ribbon of St. George, which is also used to represent the victory, but has increasingly been adopted as an emblem of Russian nationalism. The ribbon is widely displayed to show support for the annexation of Crimea, for example.
Mr. Putin has made upgrading and modernizing the military a priority, with the parade providing evidence that Russia again possesses military might.
The military policy has included a notable rise in spending, slated to jump to approximately $100 billion in 2016 from $80 billion this year. Much of that investment has focused on upgrading nuclear weapons and rapid deployment forces.
Although the overhaul has not reached all the ranks of the heavily conscripted military, experts were impressed by the professionalism of the Russian soldiers who effected the takeover of Crimea in March. Their mobility, equipment and general demeanor were markedly changed from the disheveled Russian forces deployed in the short war in Georgia in 2008 or those that fought for years against Islamic militants in the North Caucasus.
Since 2012, salaries for most military personnel have roughly tripled, to between $700 and $1,150 a month for privates and sergeants — a notable sum for Russia. Housing and education benefits have increased, too.
The public has been supportive, with the swift Russian seizure of Crimea a point of pride. At the time, Mr. Putin denied that the army had been deployed there, although he finally admitted its role in late April.
Since the soldiers in camouflage wore no insignia and would not confirm their nationality, they were often referred to in news reports as “little green men” or “polite people.” The expression has since appeared on T-shirts and was even celebrated in a song by the Russian Army ensemble choir. A sampling of the lyrics:
“Polite people will preserve the honor and glory of our fatherland.
Helmets are polite, faces are polite, even the steel machines are polite.”
Russia seized Crimea from the Ottoman Empire in 1783 and held the territory until the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954. Mr. Putin said taking Crimea back was righting a historical wrong.
In eastern Ukraine, Victory Day celebrations were underway in the eastern city of Donetsk, a provincial capital that has fallen largely under the control of pro-Russian separatists. Posters went up around the city showing red flags and Soviet military medals, and praising “the heroes of Donbass,” as the region is known.
Outside the headquarters of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist political group here, a frank and unapologetic celebration of Stalin was taking place, an indication of how the current conflict reflects divisions over the legacy of World War II. A flag showing Stalin’s mustachioed face and the phrase “Death to fascists” flapped lazily in a morning breeze.
“Kiev doesn’t want us to celebrate this holiday because they are supported by neo-Nazis,” said Yevgeny Ivanov, 44, a supporter of the Donetsk People’s Republic, as he was interviewed in a city park.
Victory Day has always been a fraught holiday in Ukraine, even under ordinary circumstances, because Ukrainians fought on both sides.
The interim government in Kiev has discouraged large marches this year because of concerns about an outbreak of violence.
In the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, the city authorities feared that pro-Russian groups, which lost at least 40 supporters killed in street fighting and a fire last week, would use the day to regroup and stage a counterattack by seizing administrative buildings. The authorities have decreed that the authorized celebration there should be confined to one park.
Violence marred the holiday in southeastern Ukraine, where armed clashes broke out before noon over control of the police station in the city of Mariupol. The Ukrainian news service Ukrainska Pravda, citing hospital workers, said four people had been injured in fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian security forces.
Photographs posted online by Ukrainian journalists showed black smoke from burning tires rising over the city, and a bloodstain on a sidewalk.
Mit welchen Waffen führen die West-Demokraten und West-Medien uns am Nasenring?
- Auf 700 Militärbasen in 120 Staaten stehen die Besatzungs-Söldner der Globalisten.
- Die wirtschaftliche Versklavung der Menschen erfolgt mittels Geldschöpfung durch die privaten Zentralbanken, Zinseszins, Zocker-Aktivitäten der Bankiers, Steuertribute, TTIP…
- Das Orwell-sche System überwacht die Menschen in allen Lebensbereichen.
- Die Menschenrechts-Lyrik ist integraler Bestandteil des westlichen Programms zur Täuschung und Zersetzung aller Werte in den westlichen Staaten und Drittländern mit Hilfe der neuen Medien (Twitter, Facebook), NGOs u.a.
- „Die bewusste und intelligente Manipulation der organisierten Gewohnheiten und Meinungen der Massen ist ein wichtiges Element in der demokratischen Gesellschaft.“ (Bernays – „Propaganda“).
- Seit mehr als 100 Jahren gilt daher in den Westlichen-Werte-Demokratien: Führung durch Suggestion und Manipulation z.B. mit NLP-Techniken. Die West-Demokraten und West-Medien haben gerade im Zusammenhang mit den Ereignissen um die Ukraine bewiesen, wie virtuos sie diese Zersetzungs-Methoden beherrschen.
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