The celebrations come at a time when the world’s attention is focussed on Ukraine where pro-Russian insurgents are preparing a referendum on secession.

The Kremlin on Friday said that President Vladimir Putin arrived in Crimea for his first trip to the region since its annexation.

The triumphant trip to Crimea follows a massive show of military muscle in the annual Red Square parade marking victory over Nazi Germany. The celebrations come at a time when the world’s attention is focussed on Ukraine where pro-Russian insurgents are preparing a referendum on secession.

Crimea, which hosts a major Russian Black Sea Fleet base, was annexed by Russia in March in a hastily called referendum held weeks after Russian troops took over Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula.

The presidential press service says that Mr. Putin is to attend a massive navy parade in the port of Sevastopol.

DPA adds:

Heavy clashes in south-eastern Ukraine

Heavy clashes are being reported between government security forces and pro-Russian groups in the city of Mariupol, in south-eastern Ukraine, after celebrations marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Shots were being fired in the centre of the city close to the Russian border, which has a population of more than 450,000, local media reported. A leader of a self-proclaimed pro-Russian self-defence group said several activists had been injured.

The pro-Russian spokesman said security forces had opened fire outside a police station occupied by separatists, after a crowd gathered there. No independent verification was immediately available.

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