MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Crimea on Saturday for what were termed “reunification” events, nine years after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
Mr Putin had earlier been expected to take part in the day’s ceremonies via video link, according to his spokesman, but was shown on state TV strolling in Sevastopol, Crimea’s biggest city.
The visit included the opening of a children’s art school and a visit to a children’s centre, according to Interfax.
It comes a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr Putin for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine, a largely symbolic move for now that the Kremlin shrugged off.
He arrived in Sevastopol driving a car, Mr Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Kremlin-installed governor of Sevastopol, said on Telegram. He also inspected an archaeological park devoted to the ancient city of Tauric Chersonese, according to Razvozhaev.
Mr Putin’s previous full-scale visit to the peninsula was in 2020.
In December, he drove a Mercedes across the Kerch Strait bridge to inspect repairs. The bridge, which links Crimea to Russia’s Krasnodar region, was seriously damaged by an explosion and fire in October.
The Kremlin blamed an act of “terrorism” by Ukraine for the incident, while Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility.
Stepped-up Russian missile attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure facilities started within days of the incident. BLOOMBERG