MOSCOW, March 19 (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Crimea on an unannounced visit to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
Putin was greeted on Saturday by the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, and was taken to see a new children’s centre 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 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 any remarks from Putin, a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had issued an arrest warrant against him and accused him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Putin has yet to comment publicly on the warrant. The Kremlin spokesman has called it “null and void” and said Russia finds 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 territory that Russia has occupied in the year-long war.