For weeks there was speculation on whether Mr. Putin would visit Crimea and Sevastopol for Victory Day ceremonies. As the government began to pour money into upgrading the Sevastopol parade it became clear that he would visit although spokesmen insisted that it wasn’t on the calendar, likely due to pressure from Western leaders like Angela Merkel and other Europeans.
While smaller in size when compared to Moscow, still it represented something previously unrivaled in Sevastopol with 1,000 troops, 60 military vehicles, thousands of veterans and other groups marching for over two hours. Arriving on a presidential yacht while inspecting a line of small Russian warships, Mr. Putin addressed those in attendance and then inspected the air and naval show showcasing 70 aircraft, to symbolize the 70th anniversary of Sevastopol’s liberation from Nazi occupation.
Mr. Putin’s remarks:
People of Crimea and Sevastopol, veterans, soldiers and sailors, sergeants and warrant officers, corporals and midshipmen, officers, generals and admirals,
I congratulate you from all my heart on Victory Day!
It is a great pleasure to be here in heroic Sevastopol on this sacred day and celebrate our country’s biggest holiday together with you. The deeds of the generation that vanquished Nazism will always stand as an example of courage, valour, unbending will and selfless service of the Motherland.
Veterans, you set the example for us all, and you have made a tremendous moral contribution to the return of Crimea and Sevastopol to their native land. You have handed down to us the great values of unity, justice and togetherness and have taught us to act according to our conscience. The generations who grew up here in Crimea and Sevastopol have always made these values their base and always remained true to the memory of those who built and developed this region and this beautiful city and who at various times fought on this soil, fought in Russia’s defense.
Today Sevastopol, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s main base, is marking a double celebration. Exactly 70 years ago, the city was liberated from the Nazis. This liberation came after 250 days of bombing from the sea and air and a storm of flame from heavy artillery. Enduring thirst and hunger, the soldiers fought on their front lines and the city residents battled in the factories for their native Sevastopol.
Even when our forces temporarily left the city, Sevastopol did not surrender. The city’s defenders established a strong partisan movement and continued to fight. Sevastopol showed the whole world that when people are determined to fight for their native land, dignity and freedom, the enemy cannot pass.
This year is especially significant for this hero city. It is full of exceptional historic events. 230 years ago, in February 1784, the city was given its proud name by decree of Catherine the Great. In September, we will mark the 160th anniversary of Sevastopol’s heroic defense during the Crimean War.
I am sure that 2014 will also become part of the city’s chronicle and of that of our entire country, as the year in which the peoples here expressed their firm desire to be together with Russia. In this decision they have shown that they remain true to the historic truth and our forefathers’ memory.
We have many difficulties ahead, but we will overcome these difficulties because we are together, and this makes us even stronger.
Happy Victory Day! Congratulations!