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Putin hails Crimea annexation in speech ahead of vote

AFP  |  Sevastopol 

Russian today thanked residents of for voting to annex the peninsula from in 2014, calling the move "real democracy" in a speech days ahead of Sunday's

"With your decision you restored historical justice," he told the crowd of supporters in the city of Sevastopol, home to the Black Sea Fleet's base.

"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 future of your children," Putin said.

In a rallying call, he said there are still things to improve in but "we will definitely do everything, because when we are together we are a huge force that can resolve the most difficult problems."

Putin is running for an historic fourth term in a poll all but guaranteed to hand him another mandate.

His visit to also included a stop at the of a massive bridge linking the peninsula to and a look at a new airport terminal.

Police said about 40,000 people attended Putin's short speech, having first to wait for several hours listening to patriotic songs.

An at the scene put the crowd at nearer 20,000.

Putin's stop at Sevastopol's main is seen as his last campaign event before the country votes.

The annexation of in March 2014 was slammed by the international community and led to sanctions against but is celebrated by most Russians and resulted in a major boost of Putin's popularity at the time.

After Putin's speech, the reacted with a statement entitled starkly: "is "

"In his campaign rally in today, Putin reiterated Russia's false claims to Ukrainian territory in another open admission that the disdains the international order and disrespects the territorial integrity of sovereign nations," said.

Russian authorities scheduled the election for March 18th to mark exactly four years since Putin signed a treaty with representatives from to make it a part of

Ahead of the vote, authorities are presenting the annexation as a major legacy of Putin's current term, with Moscow's warning recently that failing to endorse Putin on Sunday amounts to opposing the move.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, March 15 2018. 03:25 IST