16:20 Mar. 19, 2016
Russia's capital celebrates second anniversary of Crimea's annexation
Thousands of Russians gathered in the heart of the capital Moscow on Friday (March 18) for a concert in the shadow of the Kremlin walls to celebrate the second anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Reuters reports.
Flag waving Muscovites held up posters in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and waved balloons, emblazoned with the words: "I love Crimea" and "We are together".
In a public display of backing for Putin's assertive foreign policy, young and old alike danced and waved flags as Russian musicians sang songs on a stage and a military brass band played patriotic music.
On March 16, 2014, Crimeans voted to join Russia from Ukraine in a Moscow-backed referendum that wasn't recognised by Kyiv and their Western backers. The vote followed an uprising that toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian president.
The annexation unleashed a wave of patriotic euphoria in Russia and Crimea, despite the peninsula since struggling with economic isolation.
Moscow calls the annexation of the peninsula a reunification, referring to Crimea being a part of Russia until 1954.
"Well this is a celebration of the reunification of Crimea with Russia. It is a celebration for everyone. It is such a (great) event... people mark it. In Crimea it is already the third day of celebrations and we too, we support the people," said Raisa, resident of Moscow.
Russian officials say Crimea's 2 million people voiced their desire to join Russia in a democratic vote in 2014, so there was no violation of international law. Given Crimea's history within Russia, many residents feel closer to Moscow than to Kiev.
Putin's approval rating among Russians is at its highest in four years and 95 percent of Russians support Crimea's annexation, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM.