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Faced with an arrest warrant, Putin visits annexed Crimea


KYIV, Ukraine — 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 International Criminal Court issued a an arrest warrant for the Russian leader accusing him of war crimes.

Putin visited an art school and a children’s center, locations that appeared to have been chosen in response to court action on Friday.

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.”

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, could 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 homes and a kindergarten.

According to the Ukrainian statement, Russia is still focusing its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing its attacks on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarsk in Ukraine’s Donetsk province. Pavlo Kyrylenko, regional governor of Donetsk province, 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 from Friday to Sunday 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 and a food establishment destroyed, said Anatoliy Kurtev of the Zaporizhzhia city council.

British military officials said on Saturday that Russia was likely to expand conscription. In its latest intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defense said MPs in the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, introduced a bill on Monday to raise the age of conscription for men at 21-30, compared to 18-27 currently.

The ministry said that at present, many men between the ages of 18 and 21 apply for exemption from military service because they are in higher education. The change would mean that they would eventually have to serve again. He said the law will likely pass and come into force in January 2024.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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