MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin will make his first visit to the Crimean peninsula since Russia annexed the territory in March, reports said Wednesday, in a move to bolster public support amid simmering tensions in Ukraine.
Russian dailies Kommersant and Gazeta.ru reported Putin could attend a May 9 military parade marking victory in World War II in Sevastopol, which hosts the Black Sea fleet.
The trip to Sevastopol “is on the agenda, the issue has to be confirmed with the Kremlin administration,” a high-ranking source in the defence ministry told Kommersant.
Putin could fly to Crimea after overseeing the country’s main military parade on Red Square, marking 69 years since Nazi Germany surrendered its forces, the reports said.
The reports said Putin could travel with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a rare joint trip.
Russia and the other ex-Soviet states celebrate victory in World War II on May 9. Putin has often used Soviet Union’s World War II victory to boost patriotism and domestic support.
The crisis in Ukraine, which has pushed Russian relations with the West to lows not seen since the end of the Cold War, has also featured World War II rhetoric.
Moscow has frequently dismissed the pro-Western government in Kiev as “Nazis” and “Fascists”.
And Russia said the Kiev authorities admire a war-time nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, who proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state that would work with Nazi Germany.
He is hated by Russians for collaborating with the Nazis but remains a hero to some Ukrainian nationalists.