The bravado and declarations of speedy Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory came after a deeply flawed vote held under the intimidating presence of at least 21,000 Russian soldiers, who invaded in late February.
Crimean officials, including Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, and parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, showed up at the stage on the main square in Simferopol near the Vladimir Lenin monument. They stood listening to the Russian national anthem and then enjoyed a fireworks show amid shouts of jubilation among hundreds of people.
“We have an absolutely legitimate referendum. I have never seen more legitimate event,” Konstantinov told local Crimean 24 TV station.