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Russian flags fly as thousands march in Crimea

A man (L) attacks a banner of an alternative demonstration during a May Day celebrations in central Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, on May 1, 2014. The banner reads: "We are following you!" Dozens of young people staged today a grotesque imitation of annual May Day demonstration in Simferopol to make fun of the official rallies marking the public holiday by carrying posters absurdist slogans with underlying messages. AFP PHOTO / YURIY LASHOV

SIMFEROPOL: Some 60,000 people waving Russian flags and brandishing posters of President Vladimir Putin took to the streets Thursday in Simferopol, capital of the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in March.

The marchers carried banners reading: "We are Russia" and "Putin is our president", said an AFP reporter on the scene who estimated the size of the crowd.

Authorities said 75,000 people took part.

They appeared to be mainly public sector workers celebrating Labour Day, the reporter said.

Crimea was absorbed by Russia in March after Russian forces were deployed to ensure a disputed referendum that resulted in 97 percent of ballots backing Moscow rule.

"We are very worried by what we are seeing in eastern Ukraine. We cannot let the (Ukrainian) army shoot at civilians. All Russians should come together," said Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament.

The east of the country is in the grip of a separatist movement that has seen pro- Moscow rebels seize official buildings in more than a dozen towns and cities, sometimes using force.

In the port city of Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea fleet, some 8,000 people took part in the May Day march, according to authorities.

Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are likely to make a rare joint trip to Crimea for a May 9 military parade marking victory in World War II in Sevastopol, Russian media have reported.

 

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Summary

Some 60,000 people waving Russian flags and brandishing posters of President Vladimir Putin took to the streets Thursday in Simferopol, capital of the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in March.

Crimea was absorbed by Russia in March after Russian forces were deployed to ensure a disputed referendum that resulted in 97 percent of ballots backing Moscow rule.

In the port city of Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea fleet, some 8,000 people took part in the May Day march, according to authorities.


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