MOSCOW, March 19 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the 90,000 people at a Moscow rally celebrating the anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Putin addressed the Red Square rally Wednesday, looking healthy despite rumors that his recent 10-day absence from public view was caused by illness. He acknowledged the economic sanctions on Russia and on key Russian leaders. He also said that the punishment from the West for the takeover of Crimea from Ukraine, was "not fatal" but that it still "damage[d] our ongoing work."
The Crimean peninsula, Ukrainian territory since its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, was ceded to Russia on March 18, 2014, in a treaty between Crimean and Russian leaders, two days after a referendum in which voters overwhelmingly approved the deal and several weeks after gunmen took over government buildings. The Russian Federal Assembly ratified the treaty on March 21. The quick annexation received global condemnation and is still regarded as an illegitimate territorial grab.