The Russian president arrives in Crimea to celebrate the anniversary of Ukraine’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Crimea for an unannounced visit to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula by Ukraine.
Putin was greeted on Saturday by Russia-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, and taken to a new children’s center and art school on what the official said was a surprise visit.
“Our president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In a good way,” Razvozhayev told Telegram messaging app.
“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Behind the wheel. Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol,” the Moscow-appointed official said.
State media did not immediately air comments from Putin, a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had issued an arrest warrant against him, charging him with the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Putin has yet to respond publicly to the order. The Kremlin spokesman called it “null and void” and said Russia finds the very issues raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Russia conquered Crimea in 2014, eight years before the large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine says it will fight to expel Russia from Crimea and all other territory Russia has occupied in years of war.
Putin has no intention of relinquishing the Kremlin’s gains. Instead, on Friday, he stressed the importance of holding Crimea.
“It is clear that security issues are now the top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city. “We will do everything we can to fend off any threats.”
The ICC’s arrest warrant was the first issued against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights.
The move was immediately rejected by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. However, its practical implications may be limited, as the likelihood of Putin standing trial at the ICC is highly unlikely. Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and does not extradite its citizens. However, Putin would be arrested if he travels abroad to an ICC member state.