MOSCOW, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Friday in Sevastopol, a Black Sea port city that joined Russia following a referendum.
Wearing a St. George ribbon on the left of his chest, Putin, accompanied by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Black Sea fleet commander Alexander Vitko, toured in a powerboat a line of battle ships participating in a military parade.
The parade not only coincided with the 69th anniversary marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, but the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Sevastopol from Nazis. In 1965, Sevastopol was awarded the Hero City title, bestowed on cities for outstanding heroism during the war.
After inspecting a demonstration flight of 70 aircraft of the Russian Air Force, Putin delivered a speech on Grafskaya Pier, a landmark in Sevastopol, and laid flowers at the memorial for heroic defenders of the Hero City.
Putin will also visit an Orthodox church and attend an evening concert, the RIA Novosti news agency said.
It is the first time Putin has visited Crimea since the Ukrainian peninsula joined Russia on March 21, when the president signed reunification documents into law despite rebuffs from the West and Kiev. The visit has not been officially confirmed by the Kremlin.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry swiftly responded by saying in a statement that Putin's arrival in Crimea "escalates further tension in the Ukrainian-Russian relations."
The ministry said the trip showed Russia ignored the existing Ukrainian legislation and international law standards, and constituted a serious violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.
Earlier in the day, Putin, along with major government and military officials, attended the annual Red Square parade marking the 69th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
He said May 9 was "a holiday that demonstrates the invincible power of patriotism, the day when all of us become emotionally aware of what it is like to be devoted to the Motherland and how important it is to defend the country's interests."
TALLINN, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Visiting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday called on Russia "to step back from the brink," local media reported.
Addressing at Tallinn University during his second day of the visit, the NATO head said he had just two messages to deliver to the audience about his appearance in the country, the first one to Russia, whose actions in Ukraine he called "illegitimate and illegal" violations of international law. Full story