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Putin visits Crimea to mark nine years since annexation from Ukraine

President Putin in Crimea  (via REUTERS)
President Putin in Crimea (via REUTERS)

Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula’s annexation from Ukraine on Saturday.

His trip came the day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant accusing him of war crimes.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said Mr Putin visited an art school and a children’s centre.

The court specifically accused him of bearing personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine during Russia’s full-scale invasion of the neighboring country that started almost 13 months ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev, left, Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon Shevkunov, right, visit the Children's Art and Aesthetic center in Sevastopol (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev, left, Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon Shevkunov, right, visit the Children's Art and Aesthetic center in Sevastopol (AP)

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move widely denounced as illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded Russia withdraw from the peninsula as well as the areas it has occupied since last year.

Speaking on Friday, the Russian President stressed the importance of holding Crimea, adding: “Obviously, security issues take top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol now,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city.

“We will do everything needed to fend off any threats.”

He flew from Moscow to Sevastopol, where he took the wheel of the car that transported him around the city, according to Moscow-installed governor Mikhail Razvozhaev.

Along with the art school and children’s centre, Mr Putin also visited an archaeological site at the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Chersonesos.

The ICC’s arrest warrant was the first issued against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, also issued a warrant for the arrest of Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.

Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Moscow (via REUTERS)
Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Moscow (via REUTERS)

The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow — and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough.

The chances of Putin facing trial at the ICC are highly unlikely because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals.