Putin's Visit to Crimea Meets Western Outrage
Russian President Vladimir Putin's trip to the recently-annexed Crimean peninsula was condemned by EU, US and NATO officials.
Putin's visit drew criticism from the White House and also from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The latter explained the alliance still considered the peninsula to be Ukrainian territory, and Ukraine's authorities had not invited Russia's President there.
The US State Department described his trip as "provocative and unnecessary".
US National Security Council spokesperson Laura Magnuson was quoted by the BBC as saying that the visit "only served to fuel tension".
After the Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia's President flew to Crimea to mark the 70th anniversary since the city of Sevastopol was freed from Nazi forces.
During his visit to Sevastopol Putin urged respect for Russian people's rights.
"We are regarding all countries, all people with respect. We respect their legal rights and interests. But we also wish that everybody take our legal interests into account, including the restoration of historical justice and the right to self-determination," Putin added while speaking in front ot the crown.
He also praised Crimean citizens for their loyalty to a "historical truth" they had shown by becoming part of Russia.
His visit preceded Sunday's referendum in the east and south of Ukraine, which Kiev authorities have vowed not to recognize and which pro-Russian separatists expect to lead either toward federalization of the country or toward joining Russia.
Crimea broke away from Ukraine and was incorporated into the Russian Federation following a local referendum on March 16, and both Kiev and the West have expressed concern that Donetsk and Luhansk might repeat the same scenario.
While Russia's President was on the peninsula for the May 9 celebrations, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was his special envoy to Moldova's Russian-populated enclave of Transnistria which demands to become part of Russia, but has not been officially recognized even by Moscow.
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