A crowd of several thousand Russians on Red Square greeted the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea with music, fireworks, and speeches—including one by President Vladimir Putin. With slogans like “Together as One,” the speakers at Red Square called the annexation an act of reunification.
Over the preceding months the Russian media voices have trumpeted the annexation as a sign of a resurgent Russia, and proof the invincibility of Putin’s rule. Despite past protestations that he had no involvement in the military take-over of Crimea, over the past month Putin has taken great pains to bask in the Kremlin’s actions leading to the invasion, coup of the then-Crimean government, and actions in forcing the referendum for joining Russia.
During the celebration, Putin joined a throng of Russian singers and musicians to sing the national anthem.
Putin now says that his actions saved Crimea, although there was no evidence that Crimea was in any danger during the ouster of the corrupt Yanukovich government in Kyiv (Kiev). The Kremlin narrative, while false, is accepted by most Russians who had no real information of the events taking place in Ukraine.
Charges that some of the celebrating crowd had been paid to attend seemed of little consequence to those in attendance, and some stayed only a few minutes before leaving. Some celebrants had indeed been required by employers to attend. Last week Russian social media was abuzz with comments by those who were required to attend from long distances away as a condition of their employment. Russian newspaper Ведомостей (Vedomosti) published information regarding notices that offered citizens age 14 and above a payout of 300 to 350 rubles for attending.
A recent poll of 1,600 people showed that 69% believe that Russia benefits from the annexation. Over 85% say that it must never be given back to Ukraine.
Events to celebrate the annexation also took place in Crimea.
Adding to the recently minted two 10-ruble coins featuring landmarks from Crimea, the Central Bank of Russia plans to issue a special banknote, 100-ruble denomination, to commemorate the anniversary.
Russia has designated the peninsula and the city of Sevastopol as separate entities. Sevastopol is now one of three so-called Russian “Federal Cities.” The other two are Moscow and Saint Petersburg.