Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to occupied Crimea on the ninth anniversary of Russia's illegal annexation of the peninsula, just a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant, TASS reported.
According to Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, earlier Putin was expected to join the cultural and historical event virtually but he himself arrived at the site and gave a surprise to everyone.
On Friday, the president's schedule was also partly devoted to the situation on the peninsula. Putin held a meeting devoted to the socio-economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol, as per the TASS.
Putin traditionally participates in festive events on March 18. He repeatedly attended gala concerts dedicated to this date at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium, held special meetings with the public and visited Crimea personally.
The last time Putin visited the peninsula was in July 2020. He inspected the Zaliv shipyard in the city of Kerch to take part in a keel-laying ceremony for several naval ships. In December 2022, he visited the Crimean Bridge, which was being repaired after a terrorist attack, according to TASS.
Earlier, on Friday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin and another Russian official. The warrant is believed to be one of the first charges against Putin for war crimes in Ukraine, part of a global effort to hold the Russian president and the Russian Federation accountable for atrocities beginning with the full-scale February 2022 invasion, reported CNN.
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Facing arrest warrant, Russia's Putin visits annexed Crimea Rains, high
The warrant cites Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, commissioner for children's rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, for the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territory to Russia.
The Kremlin blasted the allegations, noting it does not cooperate with the ICC.
"We consider the very posing of the question outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of the law," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tweeted.
Rejecting the warrant on Friday, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affairs, said, "Russia is not a member of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it. Russia does not cooperate with this body, and possible [pretences] for arrest coming from the International Court of Justice will be legally null and void for us."
Meanwhile, former Russian President and deputy chair of the Security Council of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, compared the ICC's arrest warrant for Putin to toilet paper.
Taking to Twitter, Medvedev said, "The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used," with the toilet paper emoji.
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