MOSCOW, May 9. /TASS/. Thousands of people took to the streets in Russia’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea on Saturday for celebrations marking 70 years since Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Some 70,000 citizens attended a military parade and commemorative events in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, a spokesman from the interior ministry said.
A massive Victory Day parade in Sevastopol, a Russian federal city and home to Russia's Black Sea fleet, has attracted more than 200,000 guests, the regional office of Crimea’s interior ministry said.
"The military parade was splendid but the columns that marched down the city streets afterward were even more splendid," Admiral Alexander Vitko, the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, told reporters.
The parade was followed for the first time ever by a rally, known as the Immortal Regiment march, with more than 2,000 people walking in a column and holding pictures of relatives who fought on the World War Two battlefronts.
Admiral Vitko said participants in the street rally "set the mood for the whole action when they shouted ‘Russia!’ and ‘Thanks!’ to the veterans watching the action from spectator stands".
Veterans of Russia’s armed forces, fighters of self-defence units, Cossacks, and activists of public organisations and political parties also participated in the public action, which lasted more than an hour.
Crimea, where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognise the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
In mid-March last year, Crimea re-joined Russia following a referendum. More than 82% of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96% backed splitting from Ukraine and spoke in favour of reuniting with Russia.
Results of the referendum were celebrated by many Crimeans but the vote was widely criticised by Western leaders and at the United Nations.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, when Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean region, along with Sevastopol, to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.