Russian voters in Crimea look forward to rejoining the motherland
Russian flags were flying high in the historic naval city of Sevastopol yesterday as people looked forward to rejoining what many see as their homeland after a referendum on Crimea's future.
On the main street overlooking the Black Sea, the mood was already celebratory as patriotic Russian military songs such as "This Is My Motherland" and "Russia Rings Its Bells" boomed out of giant loudspeakers on top of houses.
People walked along the front wearing or carrying flags while the red, white and blue Russian standard had also been tied to everything from cars to city buses and ambulances.
A Russian warship from the Black Sea Fleet anchored nearby provided a visual reminder of the extent of Moscow's power over this city.
"I am happy," said Alexander Sorokin, who was out enjoying the atmosphere.
"Honestly, I'm 60 and I never thought I would live to see this happy day. Sevastopol will again be a Russian town, attached to Russia."
Sevastopol was founded by Catherine the Great of Russia in 1783 and has been home to the Black Sea Fleet - a strategically crucial naval unit which provides Moscow with access to the Mediterranean within a day's sailing - for 230 years.
It was a main battleground of the Crimean war, and during the second world war some 250,000 Red Army soldiers were killed there by German forces.
It was later recaptured by the Soviets, named a "Hero City" of the Soviet Union and totally rebuilt under Joseph Stalin in grand, neoclassical style.
Sevastopol has a large majority of ethnic Russians among its 350,000 residents who yearn for Crimea to switch from being Ukrainian territory to being part of Russia, as it was until 1954.
On the seafront, a giant stage was already set up for celebrations after the results of the referendum were announced.
A man who has lived in Sevastopol for 50 years but did not want to give his name said that people were being allowed to decide their own destiny.
"Everything which happened before was according to the will of the politicians - now it has been resolved by the people's will," he said.