SEVASTOPOL , Russia, May 9 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea Friday for the first time since it was annexed by Russia, attending a naval parade in Sevastopol.
The visit came on the date (May 9) that Russia celebrates the victorious end of World War II and Crimea honors its liberation from Nazi occupation in 1944. It also followed Putin's attendance at a militaristic parade of patriotism and power in Moscow. The annual parade rolled through Red Square with atypical scrutiny -- the first Victory Day parade since the international tension began over Crimea and Ukraine.
In Sevastopol harbor, the traditional home of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet, Putin rode a small naval launch past 10 warships, before offering a brief speech.
In Moscow, prior to the parade that included 11,000 marching soldiers, 69 aircraft and 150 military vehicles -- the first of which was an armored personnel carrier displaying a large Crimean flag -- Putin referred to Victory Day as "the holiday when the invincible power of patriotism triumphs" in a speech.
The date has become one of significance for Russia since the fall of Communism. May Day (May 1) has faded in importance as a holiday in favor of May 9, which celebrates the victory over the Nazis and is considered a sign of Russian power. The desired propaganda effect is to replace the disarray and loss of international influence that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union by highlighting an era of strength.