Fighting broke out in the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.
The violence erupted Friday when pro-Russian separatists attempted to seize police headquarters in Mariupol, an important industrial town of 500,000 on the Sea of Azov, which lies on the main road between Russia and Crimea.
Accounts of casualties vary widely. According to Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, at least 20 “terrorists” and one police officer were killed, with at least 25 others wounded. The Associated Press can only independently confirm three killed. The Donetsk regional administration said that three people were killed and 25 wounded during the fighting.
The city has been the sight of many recent clashes in the lead up to the secessionist referendum scheduled for Sunday, May 11 in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Earlier Friday in Moscow, Russians celebrated the anniversary of the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945 with the largest Victory Day parade in years. The event was marked by huge crowds across Red Square that included about 11, 000 Russian troops marching with tanks and rocket launchers to patriotic songs.
A nearly identical celebration greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival to the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. Tens of thousands showed up to watch the spectacle and herald the Russian leader’s first trip to the Black Sea peninsula since its annexation by Russia in March. Putin praised the annexation of Crimea calling it a “return to the Motherland,” while NATO, EU, and American officials reiterated the illegitimacy of the occupation and called Putin’s visit inappropriate.
Back in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk criticized the current Victory Day celebrations and ongoing pro-Russian uprisings. “Sixty-nine years ago, we together with Russia, fought against fascism and won.”
He added that now, “history is repeating itself but in a different form.”