Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine. Putin was welcomed by the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, and taken to see a new children’s centre and art school on a surprise visit. The Moscow-appointed official praised Putin for his presence on such a historic day, stating that “the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol.”
State media did not immediately broadcast any remarks from Putin, who has yet to comment publicly on the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent issuance of an arrest warrant against him. The ICC accused Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. The Kremlin spokesman dismissed the warrant as “null and void,” and called the issues raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Russia seized Crimea in 2014, eight years before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Despite Ukraine’s vow to expel Russia from Crimea and all other occupied territory, Putin has shown no intention of relinquishing the Kremlin’s gains. Instead, he emphasized the importance of holding Crimea during his visit, stating that “security issues take top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol now,” and that Russia will “do everything needed 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. While Ukraine welcomed the move as a major breakthrough, its practical implications may be limited due to Moscow’s refusal to recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals. However, Putin could face arrest if he travels abroad to an ICC member country.
Overall, Putin’s surprise visit to Crimea highlights Russia’s continued defiance of international law and its determination to maintain control over the disputed territory.