Faced with an arrest warrant, Russian President Putin travels to annexed Crimea
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula to Ukraine, the day after the Criminal Court issued a international arrest warrant for the Russian leader accusing him of war crimes. .
Russian news agency RIA Novosti said Putin had visited an art school and a children’s center, locations that appeared to have been chosen in response to court action.
The court specifically charged him on Friday with being personally responsible for child abductions in Ukraine during Russia’s full-scale invasion of the neighboring country that began nearly 13 months ago.
Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, a move most countries around the world have denounced as illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded that Russia withdraw from the peninsula as well as areas it has occupied since last year.
Putin has shown no intention of giving up the gains of the Kremlin. Instead, he stressed on Friday the importance of holding Crimea.
“Obviously security issues are now a priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city. “We will do whatever is necessary to repel any threat.”
Putin flew the 1,821 kilometers (1,132 miles) from Moscow to Sevastopol, where he got behind the wheel of the car that transported him to the city, according to Moscow-based Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev.
Besides the art school and children’s center, Putin also visited the archaeological site of the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Chersonesos, according to Russian state media.
The ICC arrest warrant was the first issued against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, also issued an arrest warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.
This decision was immediately rejected by Moscow – and welcomed by Ukraine as a major step forward. Its practical implications, however, may be limited as the chances of Putin being tried at the ICC are highly unlikely as Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals.
Widespread Russian attacks continued in Ukraine after the court announcement. Ukraine was attacked by 16 Russian drones on Friday evening, the Ukrainian Air Force announced on Saturday.
Writing on Telegram, the air force command said 11 out of 16 drones were shot down “in the central, western and eastern regions”. Among the targeted areas were the capital, Kyiv, and the western province of Lviv.
Kyiv city administration chief Serhii Popko said Ukrainian air defenses had shot down all drones heading towards the Ukrainian capital, while Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said on Saturday that three of the six drones had been shot down, with the other three hitting a district. bordering Poland.
According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the attacks were carried out from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov and the Russian province of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military also said in its regular update on Saturday morning that Russian forces in the past 24 hours had launched 34 airstrikes, one missile strike and 57 anti-aircraft fire. The Facebook update says falling debris hit the southern province of Kherson, damaging seven houses and a kindergarten.
According to the Ukrainian statement, Russia is still focusing on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing its attacks on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarsk in Donetsk province in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine.
Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said one person was killed and three injured when 11 towns and villages in the province were shelled on Friday.
Further west, Russian rockets hit a residential area overnight in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the regional capital of the partially occupied province of the same name. No casualties were reported, but houses were damaged, said Anatoliy Kurtev from the Zaporizhzhia City Council.
British military officials said on Saturday Russia would likely expand conscription to replenish its troops fighting in Ukraine. In its latest intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defense said MPs in the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, have introduced a bill to change the age of men to 21-30 years, against 18-27 currently.
The ministry said that at present, many men between the ages of 18 and 21 are applying for exemptions from military service because they are enrolled in institutions of higher learning. The change would mean they would eventually have to serve again. He said the law would likely pass and come into force in January 2024.