The Russian Foreign Ministry celebrated the ninth anniversary of the Crimean referendum to join the Russian Federation on Thursday morning, as the war with Ukraine continued in its second year.
"On March 16, 2014, Crimeans made their historic choice on the basis of universal suffrage -- the ultimate triumph of democracy," the Russian MFA wrote on Twitter. "96.77% of the Crimean population voted 'for' integration of the region into the Russian Federation.
The referendum and annexation of the formerly Ukrainian peninsula are regarded as illegitimate by western states.
The political turmoil was preceded by the seizure of key government installations by unmarked Russian forces.
Ukraine has pledged to reconquer Crimea as part of its ultimate war objectives.