Putin in Crimea as Russian Federation marks five years since annexation

Irwin Cotler

"Insulting" or "disrespecting" state symbols, establishments, and government officials such as Putin, will cost a fine of up to 300,000 and 15 days in jail. If they fail to do so, prosecutors will move to block them.

Russia's modernization effort for Crimea has included building a 19-kilometre (11.8-mile) bridge that opened past year across the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

In January, after the State Duma approved the bills in their first readings, Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin said: "These are insane bills".

President Vladimir Putin flew into Crimea on Monday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of the region from Ukraine and led cheering crowds in repeated chants of "Russia" after inaugurating two new power stations.

"Russia's violations of worldwide law have led to a risky increase in tensions at the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. With the new facilities, total energy resource of Crimea and Sevastopol will be about 2,070 MW", Putin said at the launching ceremony of the new power plants in the largest Crimean city of Sevastopol.

The facilities - able to cover 90 percent of Crimea's power needs - were partially launched past year, but Monday's inauguration marked the moment they began working at full capacity.

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Ukraine has cut off energy supplies to the peninsula and blocked shipments of Crimea-bound cargo via its territory after Moscow annexed the region in 2014. Previously, a ferry crossing that was often interrupted by gales served as the only connection. Denounced by Kiev and the West as an "annexation", it has subsequently led to several rounds of sanctions on Russian Federation.

The Kremlin was also anxious that a new Ukrainian government could annul Russia's lease on its key Black Sea navy base in Crimea and welcome North Atlantic Treaty Organisation there instead.

Mr Putin claims Russia "re-integrated" Crimea after the removal of Ukraine's former pro-Russian president in 2014 to protect ethnic Russians who made up the majority of Crimea's population from Ukrainian nationalists.

The Kerch Strait bridge connects the Sea of Asov and the Black Sea.

Russia says the matter is closed forever, and that a 2014 referendum held after Russian forces secured the peninsula showed Crimeans want to be part of Russia.

The annexation gave Russian Federation hundreds of kilometers of coastline along the Black Sea.

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