Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled Saturday to Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia exactly nine years ago. A surprise visit, the day after the issuance of an international arrest warrant against him.
This visit to Crimea on Saturday, on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula by Russia, comes the day after the issuance of an international arrest warrant against the Russian president. At the beginning of December, the Russian president visited the Crimean bridge, less than two months after its explosion.
Arrived in Sevastopol, home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Vladimir Putin attended the inauguration ceremony of a school of arts for children in the company of the local governor, Mikhail Razvojayev, according to the images broadcast by the public television channel Rossia-1.
Close to the front line
This city being located only about 240 km from Kherson, a southern Ukrainian city taken over by the army of Kiev in November after the withdrawal of Russian forces, this displacement of Vladimir Putin is also the first carried out in a place so close. from the front line.
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In the good sense of the word,” Mikhail Razvojayev wrote on Telegram. According to him, the school of arts for children was to be inaugurated on Saturday with the participation of the Russian leader by videoconference.
“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. At the wheel. Because on a historic day like today, he is always with Sevastopol and its people,” said Mikhail Razvojayev.
“Our country has an incredible leader!” he enthused.
Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum not recognized by kyiv and the international community. International sanctions had already been imposed on Russia following this annexation. Now added are those related to the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
International arrest warrant
If Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that he intended to take back Crimea – “our land” – with weapons, Moscow continues to hammer home that “Crimea is Russian”, refusing to make it the subject of possible peace negotiations.
Vladimir Putin, whose last visit to Crimea dates back to November 2021, has been targeted since Friday by an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of the war crime of “illegal deportation”. of Ukrainian children.
The Kremlin has ruled the warrant “null and void”, the issuance of which was announced the same day Moscow and Beijing unveiled Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia next week, meant to usher in a “new era” in Russia. relations between two allies.
This visit will take place from March 20 to 22, a little over a year after the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine which led the Kremlin to reorient itself towards China, amid tensions with the West which supports the ‘Ukraine.
China wants to impose itself as a mediator
Last month, China sought to establish itself as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict by issuing a document urging Moscow and kyiv to hold peace talks. On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba, once again urged kyiv and Moscow to resume peace talks “as soon as possible”.
“We have repeatedly stated that we are open to really serious proposals from the West and Ukraine on resolving the crisis by politico-diplomatic means,” the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy said on Saturday. , Maria Zakharova.
“But the language of ultimatums is unacceptable to us,” she stressed, calling in particular for the “lifting of all illegitimate sanctions and the cancellation of all proceedings against Russia in international judicial bodies”.