Russia unveils first monument dedicated to troops involved in Crimea annexation

Russia has unveiled its first monument dedicated to the troops which annexed Crimea from the territory of Ukraine last year.

Well equipped, unmarked troops, widely believed to be Russian soldiers seized public buildings on the Crimean peninsula as Ukraine's anti-government protest movement Euromaidan toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev.

Russia denied sending troops to Crimea at the time and the mysterious soldiers came to be known as "polite people", following Russia's ridiculed party line than they were local self defence forces and volunteers, not Russian servicemen on duty.

The new monument, which is located in the Russian city of Belogorsk, Amurskaya region, is thus dedicated to Russia's "polite people". It depicts an armed fighter helpfully suspending a kitten in his arms - symbolic of the fighting unit's apparent kindness. At the opening ceremony today a young boy in military garb posed with the statue as though taking the cat in his own arms.

The statue is 1.80 metres tall and was unveiled by the local governor Alexander Kozlov and the mayor of Belogorsk Stanislav Milyukov, to an audience of Russian military veterans, acting servicemen and citizens of Belogorsk as well as nearby towns.

According to Russia's state news agency Itar-Tass the building of the monument was privately funded and it was built by a smelting factory in nearby Kastli. It has been installed in Belogorsk's city centre and the local government promised to develop the area around the statue into a green space.

Crimea was officially incorporated into the territory of Russia in March following the staging of an internationally unrecognized referendum on March 18 under the watchful eye of these "polite people".

Since then, Russian president Vladimir Putin has admitted that Russian troops were present in Crimea at the time and he has also signed a decree making the anniversary of Russia's annexation an official holiday dedicated to the Russian special operations forces.