MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin inaugurated on Monday two power plants in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula territory that was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Putin’s visit marked the fifth anniversary of what Moscow bills as Crimea’s reunification with Russia, following a referendum in which voters in the region overwhelmingly backed accession to the Russian Federation, despite strong condemnation and little recognition from the international community.
“Such volumes (of electricity) will not only meet their own needs, given the plans for development plans on the Crimean Peninsula, but also, if necessary could supply neighboring regions,” Putin told Russian media.
With the opening of the two power plants, Crimea will increase its energy output from 1,100 to 2,070 megawatts.
Putin said the current output was not sufficient for the territory’s schools, hospitals and housing, or for its industrial and tourism development programs.
Authorities scheduled several commemorative acts throughout the day.
On March 18, 2014, leaders in Crimea and Sevastopol, a special-status city on the peninsula, signed a treaty to accede to Russia following the referendum, which was held after Russia annexed the territory from Ukraine in the wake of a pro-European revolution that ousted a Moscow-sympathetic president.
According to the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, the inauguration of the plants symbolize Crimea’s step into energetic autonomy.
Almost 90 percent of voters in Crimea wanted to join Russia, according to the referendum results, which the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe declined to independently monitor, as its orchestrators did not have the internationally-recognized authority.
Russia annexed Crimea at the same time as pro-Russian insurgents seized power in Ukraine’s eastern regions, which are heavily populated by ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.
The vast majority of people in Crimea are also Russian speakers.
Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, whose opposition to Russia’s administration of Crimea is backed by the European Union, remained insistent that Crimea would be returned to Ukraine.
In full campaign mode ahead of presidential elections in which he is seeking a second tenure, Poroshenko said: “Ukraine does no give in to any bargaining, to any secret agreement, we will do everything after the presidential elections.”
Putin recently consolidated his grip over Crimea with the completion of the Kerch bridge, linking the peninsula to the Russian mainland.
That multi-billion dollar piece of infrastructure was at the center of an international spat on Nov. 25 when Russian coastguards opened fire on Ukrainian naval boats in the Azov Sea, near the bridge and arrested 24 sailors.
In response, Poroshenko declared martial law in 10 regions of Ukraine, the majority bordering Russia.
The EU placed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea.