Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun stands in the middle of the crowd at the pro-Crimea rally that took place at the 5-corner square in Murmansk.(Photo: Bloger51.com)
Unlike photos you have seen of opposition demos in Russia, none police officers were visible when one of the largest demonstrations in Murmansk in recent years took place in support of the Russian speaking population on Crimea.
“Sevastopol, we are with you” – “Murmansk and Sevastopol are brothers” – “Forever with Russia” - “2 countries 1 people” – “Krim + Murmansk = Love.” The posters encircling Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun in centre of the rally downtown Murmansk were not to misunderstand. Kremlin’s way of handling the crisis on Crimea has strong support in Russia’s Arctic capital.
Bloggers, like the well-known bloger51, estimated that 550 people participated in the rally based on drone-photos from above. The Murmansk administration controlled newspaper Murmansk Vestnik says one thousand participants. Whatever is correct, the rally is one of the largest public manifestations in Murmansk in years.
There are also two highly different versions on why so many people suddenly met with home-made posters supporting Kremlin’s position on Crimea’s declaration of independence and desire to be a part of the Russian Federation. Murmansk Vestnik says people from many different parties, organizations and even visitors from other parts of the region participated because of their strong support to the Russian speaking population in Crimea. Others, like FlashNord, claims that state employees were forces by authorities in Murmansk to take part in the rally. The site refer to blogger Pavel Sviridov writing “…local authorities are forcing state employees to go to the rally in support of Crimea.”
Governor Marina Kovtun, who celebrated her birthday the day before, did not make any statements on the podium during the demonstration, but was standing in the crowd.
There are some 3,000 people from Crimea living in Murmansk region. The population link between the northern Russian region and the Ukrainian region is mainly due to the presence of the two naval flotillas, the Northern fleet with bases in the Murmansk region and the Black Sea fleet that Russia leases land from Ukraine for at Crimea. Many naval officers serving in the north are educated at the naval academy in Sevastopol during the Soviet period.