The Russian president arrived in Crimea to celebrate the anniversary of the annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Crimea for an unexpected visit to celebrate the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
On Saturday, Putin was greeted by the Russian governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, and was taken to see the new children’s center and art school in a surprise visit, according to the official.
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In a good way,” Razvozhayev said on the messaging app Telegram.
“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 broadcast Putin’s remarks, a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had issued an arrest warrant and charged him with war crimes for the illegal deportation of hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Putin has not yet publicly commented on the order. A Kremlin spokesman has called it “empty and void” and said Russia considers the issues raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, eight years before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine says it is fighting to expel Russia from Crimea and all other territories Russia has occupied during the year-long war.
Putin has shown no intention of giving up the Kremlin’s gains. Instead, he stressed on Friday the importance of keeping Crimea.
“Obviously, security issues are now a priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city. “We are doing everything we can to counter all threats.”
The International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant was the first against a leader who is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Dutch court in The Hague also issued an arrest warrant for the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova.
Moscow immediately rejected it, and Ukraine saw it as a major breakthrough. Its practical effects may be limited, however, as Putin’s chances of being tried at the ICC are highly unlikely. Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and does not extradite its citizens. However, Putin would face arrest if he travels abroad to an ICC member country.