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Putin rallies loyalists in Crimea on eve of Russian election

Putin rallies loyalists in Crimea on eve of Russian election

President Putin has ended his election tour with a visit to Crimea on March 14. The Russian leader’s last big campaign event before elections on Sunday will serve as a reminder to the West of Russia’s past transgressions even as a new diplomatic duel over the poisoning of the ex-spy Skripal in the UK gathers pace.

Vladimir Putin is widely popular in Crimea, peninsula residents warmly welcomed their President on March 14. According to coverage on state-run TV, Mr Putin is expected to easily win over eight other candidates on the ballot in the March 18 election. In 2017, the Russian lawmakers moved the date of the presidential election from March 11 to March 18. This year, March 18 is a double big date.

Putin made the comments on March 14, four days ahead of Russia’s presidential election, in a move that Ukraine’s president called an “extremely dangerous provocation” and which drew sharp criticism from the U.S. State Department.

The March 18 Russian presidential vote coincides with the fourth anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of the Ukrainian region.

“With your decision, you restored historical justice,”

he told a crowd in the historic naval port of Sevastopol.

Putin was warmly welcomed in Crimea

Before arriving in Crimea, Russian leader visited the construction site of a bridge that is meant to link the peninsula with Russian territories across the Kerch Strait.

For Crimea, the construction of the £2.6 billion bridge to connect Russia’s mainland to the peninsula means a lot. Putin met with the bridge’s constructors and asked them about the meeting a deadline. Construction of the bridge started in 2016, and thanks to the future bridge, Crimea will benefit from the increasing of touristic flow from Russia.

“With your decision, you showed the whole world what is real, rather than sham democracy, you came to the referendum and made a decision, you voted for your future and the future of your children,”

the Russian leader said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, meanwhile, called Putin’s visit to Crimea “an extremely dangerous provocation.” He urged the European Union to impose sanctions against “those who organized Russian presidential election events on a Ukrainian territory.”