April 24, 2024

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

Putin's ambitions for the Ukraine war appear at a concert in Crimea after his election victory

Putin's ambitions for the Ukraine war appear at a concert in Crimea after his election victory

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin took to Red Square on Monday to celebrate the election that seemed to carry a greater message to the crowd of thousands of flag-waving people, and to the world: Having expanded his rule over Russia, his focus will be on tightening his grip. On Ukrainian territory.

“Together, hand in hand – we will move forward,” he declared before singing the national anthem, just hours after declaring a landslide victory in the elections that were administered on stage without any opposition.

Surrounded by his favorite musical acts, pro-war celebrities and the three officially approved figures who were on the ballot with him, he led the celebratory event to mark the 10th anniversary of his annexation of Crimea. Ukrainian officials told NBC News that the party was nothing more than propaganda, and criticized votes held for the first time in four newly annexed regions as illegal coercion.

Three days after voting, Russia's electoral commission said Putin had won 87% of the vote, the biggest win of his political career, in what the Kremlin portrayed as an unambiguous public stamp of approval for his invasion of Ukraine, even though Russia's critics carried out an invasion. Ukraine. The war was prevented from taking place.

Just hours later, the Russian leader was in Red Square, where his face was projected onto huge screens so he could be seen from and beyond the Lenin Mausoleum.

From a stage beneath the colorful domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, the music was sometimes as loud as thunder, and the red-brick walls of the Kremlin flashed with stage lights. The crowd, mostly students, some of whom said they had been given free tickets to the event, cheered and sang as Russian stars performed patriotic songs.

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Most of them are under 20 years old, and many have their faces painted in the colors of the Russian flag. Putin, who has been in power for 24 years, is the only leader they have ever known. They may be in adulthood before seeing someone else.

“He made Russia much better than it was,” Maxim Druzhinin, 18, said, speaking in English. When asked if he expected to be 30 before Putin left office, the teenager, a student at the capital's prestigious Higher School of Economics, said: “There is a question: who else?”

Alexandra Volkova, an 18-year-old programming student, at Putin's victory party. Natasha Lebedeva/NBC News

“He has succeeded in keeping the country together for many years,” said Alexandra Volkova, a Russian-speaking programming student. “He's definitely the most reliable candidate out there,” the 18-year-old said.

Of course, the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent means that measuring public opinion in Russia is extremely difficult. This crowd was particularly pro-Putin, and was not filled with those who turned out on Sunday afternoon in a muted show of defiance called for by the opposition, or those who had quietly resigned themselves to life under Putin.

“Crimea is not Russian”

Putin used this occasion to promise to extend the Russian railway system all the way to the occupied Crimean Peninsula, as an alternative to the bridge linking the peninsula to the Russian mainland, which has been subjected to repeated Ukrainian attacks.

The Russian leader also praised the people of Crimea for what he described as their loyalty to Moscow.

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“They are our pride,” Putin said. “They never separated from Russia. This is what allowed Crimea to return to our common family.”

This “return,” which boosted Putin’s popularity and set the tone for Russian expansionism in the following decade, is viewed by most of the international community as an illegal territorial seizure, rather than a historic repatriation.

Crimea, considered vital to Russian naval power, has been used as a major center and staging point for the war against Ukraine, which has pledged to reclaim it along with all territories occupied by it and has increasingly targeted Russian military targets on the peninsula.

“Crimea is not Russian,” Tamila Tasheva, Kiev’s permanent representative in Crimea, told NBC News. “Legally, the region is Ukrainian. This, by the way, is very clearly understood in the subconscious of Russia itself, which is why such 'ceremonies' are held in order to convince themselves of its non-existence,” she said about the event that took place on Red Square.

After eight years of occupying Crimea, Russia annexed four more regions of Ukraine in 2022: Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk in the east. Some of these areas are only partially controlled by Russian forces, although that did not prevent the Kremlin from holding a vote that saw armed men present in some polling stations.

Putin speaks to a crowd of supporters after his election victory in Moscow's Red Square on Monday evening.Alexander Zemlyanichenko/AFP

The Russian Electoral Commission said that in four of the five annexed regions, including Crimea, voters gave Putin more than 90% of the votes.

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Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said these results are “fake” and lack any legitimacy, while Ukrainians there who oppose the Kremlin continue to suffer at the hands of the Russians.

Tasheva dismissed the alleged findings as “primitive propaganda.”

But for the Kremlin, the three-day election, celebrated on Monday night, was the message Clear. Ukraine will have to fight to keep its territory, and Putin's eyes are now firmly set beyond the Red Square theater to the battlefields that will define his legacy.

Keir Simons and Natasha Lebedeva reported from Moscow and Yulia Tilmazan reported from London.