Russian President Vladimir Putin began his first visit to Crimea in more than two years, yesterday, to celebrate the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s accession to 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 officially ended up in Moscow in a referendum that was not recognized by Kiev or its international partners.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Putin participated in the opening of a cultural center during his visit.
Putin last traveled to the peninsula in July 2020, though in December last year he paid a very brief visit to the Kerch Bridge, an infrastructure linking Crimea to mainland Russia, which was destroyed in an explosion in October 2022.
In a symbolic gesture, Putin arrived in Sevastopol, the most important city in Crimea, driving a car, according to the region’s governor. Mikhail Razvogaev on his Telegram channel.
Our president knows how to surprise. In a good way, ”wrote the governor, who initially understood that Putin would confine himself to commemorating the annexation via videoconference. “He arrived by car, driving. What a great leader he is.”
Traditionally, on March 18 every year since the annexation of the peninsula, the Russian president takes part in acts of homage like the one that took place yesterday. The illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia is the process of incorporating the two entities that make up Crimea, the Republic of Crimea and the Autonomous City of Sevastopol, as federal entities of the Russian Federation.
Optimism in the 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 prosecutor of the Hague-based court, 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 the territory Russian. The interview stated that “those who believe it is impossible” to hold the Russian president accountable for the actions committed in Ukraine “do not understand history.”
On the same day as Putin’s visit to Crimea, the Ukrainian military authorities reported a new wave of drone strikes. They said some of the planes hit areas that were almost on the periphery of the conflict, such as Lviv province in the west of the country.
“At approximately 9:00 pm on March 17, 2023, the Russian invader attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed 136/131 drones with bombs,” the Air Force reported in a message on the Telegram platform. The military authorities confirmed that 11 of the 16 bombs were destroyed. Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the extension of its agreements with Turkey and the United Nations to export Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, but only for a period of 60 days, at Moscow’s request, and in contradiction to the Kiev declaration. 120 days, the same as the previous day.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zagarova said, “Russia has notified all signatories to the agreement of its extension for a period of 60 days.” Neither Turkey nor the United Nations, the guarantors of the agreement, wanted to specify the duration of the extension when it was announced.