Russia will hold celebrations across the country Saturday to mark the third anniversary of its annexation of Crimea. In the Siberian region of Yakutia, deer races will be held, while the north-western city of Murmansk will host a flash mob titled “Crimea—Russia, forever!” complete with free balloons in the color of the Russian flag, reported the Moscow Times.
Even as the United States reaffirmed its condemnation of the move, Moscow's aggression will be the cause for patriotic revels.
Similar celebrations have been held in previous years. On the one-year anniversary of the annexation, Moscow hosted a huge open-air concert during which crowds were addressed by President Vladimir Putin.
After ousting Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in a military intervention, then convened a referendum in which it claimed 97 percent of Crimean residents voted to join Russia. The vote was widely rejected by the international community and sanctions swiftly followed.
In the U.S., there has been much uncertainty about the future handling of sanctions on Russia, given President Donald Trump’s contradictory statements on Russia’s claim to Crimea. However, on Thursday, the State Department restated its firm opposition.
“The United States does not recognize Russia's ‘referendum’ of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and continued violation of international law,” acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement. “We once again reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The statement continued: “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
The statement came a day after the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee insisted that sanctions must remain in place against Russia, unless major changes are made by Putin’s government.