Putin visits Crimea after war crimes warrant issued against him | Russo-Ukrainian War

The Russian president arrives in Crimea to mark the anniversary of the peninsula’s annexation to Ukraine 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 from Ukraine.

Putin was greeted by Russian Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev on Saturday and taken to see a new children’s center and art school in what the official said was a surprise visit.

“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In a good way,” Razvozhayev said on the Telegram messaging app.

“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Driving. 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 any words from Putin, a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had issued an arrest warrant for him and charged him with the war crime of illegally expelled hundreds of children from Ukraine.

Putin has yet to publicly comment on the mandate. The Kremlin spokesman called it “null and void” and said Russia found the very issues raised by the ICC to be “outrageous and unacceptable”.

Russia seized Crimea in 2014, eight years before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine says it will fight 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 gains of the Kremlin. Instead, he stressed on Friday the importance of holding Crimea.

“Obviously security issues are now a priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city. “We will do whatever is necessary to repel any threat.”

The ICC 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, has also issued an arrest warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russian commissioner for children’s rights.

This decision was immediately rejected by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major step forward. Its practical implications, however, may be limited as the chances of Putin being tried by the ICC are highly unlikely. Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and does not extradite its nationals. Putin, however, would risk being arrested if he traveled abroad to an ICC member country.

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