Putin surprise visits Crimea on the ninth anniversary of its annexation

Russian President Vladimir Putin began his first visit to Crimea in more than two years yesterday to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s incorporation into Russia in what Ukraine and its allies described as an illegal annexation move.

Crimea passed under Russian control during a military offensive in 2014 and ended up officially incorporated into Moscow in a plebiscite never recognized by kyiv or its international partners.

During his visit, Putin participated in the opening of a cultural center, Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov has confirmed.

Putin last traveled to the peninsula in July 2020, although in December last year he made a very brief visit to the Kerch bridge, an infrastructure that connects the Crimean peninsula with mainland Russia, and which was destroyed in an explosion in October 2022. .

In a symbolic gesture, Putin arrived in the most important city of Crimea, Sevastopol, at the wheel of a car, according to the regional governor. Mijail Razvozhayev on his Telegram channel.

«Our president knows how to surprise. In a good way,” wrote the governor, who initially understood that Putin would limit himself to commemorating the annexation via videoconference. «He has arrived by car, with himself at the wheel. What a great leader we have,” he added.

Traditionally, every March 18 since the annexation of the peninsula, the Russian president participates in homage acts like the one yesterday. The illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia is the process of incorporating the two entities that make up the Crimean peninsula, the Republic of Crimea and the autonomous city of Sevastopol, as federal subjects of the Russian Federation.

Optimism in prosecution

The visit comes a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights. In an interview with CNN, the chief prosecutor of the tribunal based in The Hague, Karim Khan, was optimistic that the Russian president would end up in the dock for war crimes by forcibly deporting Ukrainian minors. from areas captured during the war to Russian territories. “Those who believe it is impossible” for the Russian leader to be held accountable for the acts committed in Ukraine “do not understand history,” the interview stated.

On the same day as Putin’s visit to Crimea, the Ukrainian military authorities reported a new wave of drone strikes. Some aircraft, they said, hit areas that have been almost on the margins of the conflict, such as the province of Lviv, in the west of the country.

“Around 9:00 p.m. on March 17, 2023, the Russian invader attacked Ukraine with Shahed-136/131 type Iranian-made bomb drones,” the Air Force reported in a message on the Telegram platform. The military authorities assure that 11 devices out of a total of 16 were destroyed. Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that its agreements with Turkey and the UN for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea have been extended, but only for 60 days, as requested by Moscow, and in contradiction to Kiev’s announcement. that the extension is 120 days, like the previous one.

“Russia has notified all the signatory parties to the agreement that it has been extended for 60 days,” said the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zajárova. Neither Turkey nor the United Nations, guarantors of the pact, have wanted to indicate the term of the extension when announcing it.

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