Three years on, the annexation of |Crimea by Russia has been recognised only by countries such as North Crimea, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela.
State-run television showed footage of sparsely attended concerts and parades in cities across the vast country and there was much less fanfare over the event than in previous years.
President Vladimir Putin — who last year spent the anniversary visiting Crimea — was not expected to take part in any of the official celebrations that include a concert and firework display in Moscow.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 following the ouster of its Kremlin-backed leader by mass protests in Kiev.
Putin ordered out thousands of special forces troops to take control of strategic infrastructure before a hastily organised referendum was held that was rejected by the international community.
The Kremlin argued it was reacting to an illegal coup in Kiev. The move unleashed a wave of nationalist sentiment that saw Putin’s popularity soar, with many Russians seeing the region that once belonged to Moscow as their country’s rightful property.