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Navy, jets, air show: Sevastopol marks V-Day, 70 years of liberation from Nazis (VIDEO)

Published time: May 09, 2014 17:52
Edited time: May 09, 2014 18:51
Russian veterans march with a Soviet navy flag to mark Victory Day in the Crimean port of Sevastopol May 9, 2014. (Reuters)

Russian veterans march with a Soviet navy flag to mark Victory Day in the Crimean port of Sevastopol May 9, 2014. (Reuters)

The Crimean Hero City of Sevastopol celebrated Victory Day with a breath-taking air show and a huge naval parade reviewed by President Putin. 70 years from this day, the iconic Russian naval base was liberated from Nazi troops after bloody battles.

Some 150,000 people flocked to central Sevastopol on Friday to view the massive Victory Day Parade, which this year featured land, sea and air forces of Russia coming together for a big show.

WATCH FULL VIDEO OF THE PARADE:

One of the most revered places in the history of the Russian military, Sevastopol marked the special date with Russia’s commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin, who personally inspected the Naval Parade of the Black Sea Fleet. Putin arrived in the Crimean city hours after taking part in the Moscow V-Day parade.

People hold a giant Russian flag during celebrations to mark Victory Day in the Crimean port of Sevastopol May 9, 2014. (Reuters)

The celebrations come less than two months after Sevastopol rejoined Russia along with the Republic of Crimea. In the predominantly-Russian city, which for years since the collapse of the Soviet Union maintained a special and disputed status, the vast majority of residents supported accession to Russia.

More than 1,000 troops, including 11 parade battalions formed from different regiments of the Russian Navy, opened the V-Day parade in Sevastopol on Friday morning. They were accompanied by some 30 units of military hardware and 70 aircraft.

Russian servicemen during the Parade of Victors in Sevastopol. (RIA Novosti/Valery Melnikov)

In Sevastopol Bay, 10 Russian warships lined up for a big Naval Parade, including the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, guided missile cruiser “Moskva.” The ship, which boasts the highest combat capacity among the ships of its class in the Russian Navy, was accompanied by large ASW destroyer “Kerch,” small ASW corvette “Aleksandrovets,” guided missile hovercrafts “Samum” and “Bora,” patrol ship “Pytlivyi,” minesweeper “Vice-Admiral Zhukov,” guided missile corvette R-239, guided missile corvette “Shtil” and a new generation border patrol ship “Zhemchug.”

Legendary four-masted barque “Kruzenshtern,” veteran of several transatlantic voyages and circumnavigations, also hoisted its sails for the celebrations.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) reviews ships of Russian Black Sea fleet during a visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol on May 9, 2014. (RIA Novosti/AFP/Alexey Druzhinin)

In a massive Russian Air Force flyover, dozens of helicopters, fighter jets, bombers, transport and reconnaissance planes flew over the bay in different formations. The flyover included Mi-28 (“Havoc”) and Ka-52 Alligator battle helicopters, Su-25 (“Frogfoot”) assault jets, Su-34 (“Fullback”) fighter-bombers, Tu-95 (“Bear”) strategic bombers, MiG-29 (“Fulcrum”) and SU-27 (“Flanker”) fighter jets.

Planes from Russia's military aerobatics teams Strizhi (Swifts) and Russian Knights perform during events marking Victory Day in Sevastopol May 9, 2014. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)

World-famous aerobatic teams Russian Knights and Strizhi (“Swifts”) arrived to Sevastopol for a spectacular joint air show flying SU-27s and MiG-29s. Breath-taking footage of the show was being broadcasted directly from a cabin of one of the fighter jets flying in close formation.

‘A special year for Sevastopol’

Addressing residents of the city and the WWII veterans who came to celebrate the date from all over Russia, President Putin said he is “delighted to be here in the heroic Sevastopol on this sacred day, and to celebrate the most important holiday of our country together with you.”

Thanking those who defeated the Nazis seven decades ago, Putin said that the heroic deeds, the courage and valor of the veterans that are still highly revered in Crimea made a “huge moral contribution to Crimea’s and Sevastopol’s return to our homeland.”

RIA Novosti/Valery Melnikov

This year is very special for Sevastopol, Putin stressed, reminding that 230 years ago Russian Empress Catherine the Great gave it its name, 160 years ago the heroic Crimean War Siege of Sevastopol began, and 70 years ago Sevastopol was liberated from the Nazis by the Soviet troops.

Several generations of Crimeans remained “true to the memory” of those who defended the city at the cost of their lives and those who rebuilt it, and in March 2014 “confirmed their loyalty to the historical truth, to the memory of our forefathers,” Putin said.

Destroyed and rebuilt

In October-November 1941, the city of Sevastopol was attacked from land, air and sea by the invading Nazi German army and their Romanian allies. Despite unceasing bombings, in which Luftwaffe pilots made up to 600 sorties a day, dropping some 2,500 bombs on the city, and the destructive fire of the German heavy artillery, the Nazis failed to quickly take Sevastopol.

For an unbelievable 250 days, the defenders of Sevastopol repelled the attacks of the Nazis until the fortifications and the city itself were practically leveled to the ground. Soviet troops suffered tens of thousands of casualties, with the exact toll still unclear. According to Russian Security Service files, the military command evacuated from Sevastopol before its fall reported that the troops preferred to blow themselves up than to surrender, adding that “Sevastopol as a city is no more, it is destroyed.”

May 1944. Soviet soldiers rushing into Sevastopol from the Grafskaya quay. (RIA Novosti)

The heroic struggle made the city and its defenders a landmark in the Great Patriotic War and a symbol of the fight against the Nazism. The importance was well understood by the Nazis, with the commander of the occupying Nazi German forces in the city in May 1944, Karl Allmendinger, writing that “not one name in Russia is uttered with greater reverence than Sevastopol.”

Despite Hitler’s order “to hold every meter” of the city, Sevastopol was retaken by the Soviet troops in April-May 1944 after bitter fighting as part of the Crimean Offensive. The victory was a hard won one, with more than 17,700 Soviet troops killed and over 67,000 wounded in the operation.

May 1944. Soviet soldiers saluting on the embankment in honor of Sevastopol's liberation. (RIA Novosti)

Just like after the Crimean War, Sevastopol was rebuilt from ruins and grew even larger and stronger in the post-WWII years. It retained its status of the strategic Russian naval base, with its administrative part, Balaklava, remaining a “closed city” until the collapse of the Soviet Union due to a secrete submarine base.

The largest Crimean city, Sevastopol was made directly subordinate to Moscow in 1948 and kept its status despite the 1954 Crimean transfer to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev. In the 1990s, the status of Sevastopol became the subject of endless debates between Russia and Ukraine. Following negotiations, the city with the surrounding territories was granted a special “state significance” status within the Ukrainian state, and some of the naval facilities were leased to Russia for its Black Sea Fleet until at least 2047. However, the city’s Russian majority and some outspoken Russian politicians still considered Sevastopol to be a part of Russia.

Sevastopol.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

In the March 16 referendum, the residents of Sevastopol voted together with the rest of the Crimean population to Russia, with a 90 percent voter turnout. The city and the surrounding region was accepted into the Russian Federation as a federal city – the other two Russian cities enjoying the special status being Moscow and St. Petersburg.