Putin makes first Crimea visit for military parade as US sends commandos to Baltics

As Russia flexes military might with Victory Day parades, US special forces take part in training exercises across the Baltic states

President Vladimir Putin arrived in Crimea today for his first visit to the region since it was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March.

The triumphant visit saw him attend a massive naval parade in Sevastopol to mark 69 years since the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, which occupied Crimea for two years during World War Two.

Mr Putin was present at a similar event in the capital’s Red Square Friday morning, which gave Moscow an opportunity to flex its military muscles as the worst relations between Russia and the West since the Cold War endure, amid continued unrest in eastern Ukraine, where dozens were reportedly killed today. 

In what looks to have been one of the bloodiest clashes in the east yet, Kiev backed Ukrainian security forces claim to have on Friday killed 20 pro-Russian separatists in the port of Mariupol, where a proportion of residents are planning to hold a Crimea style referendum on Sunday.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said an attempt by what he called “terrorists” to seize police headquarters turned into a pitched battle inside the building with Ukrainian army, national guard and security force personnel.

Tanks roll through Moscow's Red Square during the annual Victory Day parade (AFP/Getty)

“A terrorist group of about 60 men armed with automatic weapons attacked the police headquarters...About 20 terrorists were destroyed and four taken prisoner,” Avakov said on his Facebook page.

“To those who come with weapons and who shoot and who take hostages, torture them, rob people, hiding behind various slogans - to them there can be only one answer from the Ukrainian state - annihilation.”

The death toll has not been independently verified.

The clashes and Mr Putin's visit to Crimea come as the US prepares to send hundreds of commandos to the Baltic states over the coming months as part of an ongoing effort to reassure allies in the region.

The Pentagon said around 40 special operations forces are now taking part in the two-week Exercise Spring Storm training exercise in Estonia. A further 140 will participate in Exercise Flaming Sword, which will move

The leaders of the Baltic states have expressed particular concern to the US and Nato, of which they are all members, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Like Crimea, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were once controlled by neighbouring Russia and maintain large Russian populations.

Speaking from the Estonian capital Tallinn, Nato's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen branded Mr Putin's Crimea visit "inappropriate".

Mr Rasmussen also reiterated that he had no visible confirmation that Russian troops had withdrawn from Ukraine's border. Russia's Foreign Ministry had said Mr Rasmussen was “blind” after he earlier stated he had seen no signs Russian withdrawal.

In Red Square on Friday morning, Mr Putin made no reference to Ukraine as he praised the Soviet role in defeating fascism and said those who defeated fascism must never be betrayed.

The appeal to not forget the people who defeated fascism did however have a poignant ring as Moscow has warned of the dangers posed by leaders it portrays as neo-fascists in Ukraine, and has urged Europe to prevent the rise of the far-right.

He delivered the speech to soldiers and war veterans after watching troops, tanks, artillery and mobile ballistic missile launchers file past him and jet fighters scream overhead.

“The iron will of the Soviet people, their fearlessness and stamina saved Europe from slavery. It was our country which chased the Nazis to their lair, achieved their full and final destruction, won at the cost of millions of victims and terrible hardships,” he said.

“We will always guard this sacred and unfading truth and will not allow the betrayal and obliteration of heroes, of all who, not caring about themselves, preserved peace on the planet.”

Putin is set to travel to France in early June for a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing, in what will be his first encounter with Western leaders since the start of the Ukrainian crisis.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices