Vladimir Putin visits Crimea to mark nine years of annexation as Ukraine grain deal is extended
Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula to Ukraine.
His trip came a day after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes, alleging he bears personal responsibility for the abduction of children from Ukraine following the Russian invasion. .
In Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol, Putin met with Moscow-based Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev, with whom he visited an art school and a children’s center that are part of a project to develop a historical park on the site of a former Greek colony, Russian state news agencies said.
Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, in a move most denounced as illegal and which soured relations between Moscow and the West. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said any peace deal would involve Russia’s withdrawal from the peninsula as well as areas it has occupied since last year.
Mr Putin has shown no intention of renouncing the Kremlin’s achievements. Instead, he stressed on Friday the importance of holding Crimea.
“Obviously, security issues are now a priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said. “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. It was immediately rejected by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. But the chances that Mr Putin will be tried by the ICC are very slim because Moscow does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Court and will not extradite Russian nationals.
In Ukraine, authorities reported widespread Russian attacks between Friday evening and Saturday morning, killing one person in Donetsk Oblast, where Russia continues to focus the bulk of its attacks on Bakhmut and other parts of the region. Eastern industry.
Ukraine’s military said Moscow launched 34 airstrikes and one missile strike, while Kyiv’s air force command said 11 out of 16 drones were shot down in attacks that targeted Ukraine. capital, Kiev, and the western province of Lviv, among others.
With no end in sight to hostilities, the United Nations and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a wartime deal allowing the shipment of grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports to countries in Africa, the Middle East and from Asia was extended, although none said how long.
Ukraine said the deal, which is tied to efforts to support Russian food and fertilizer exports, had been renewed for 120 days, the period desired by Kyiv and Turkey, which brokered the deal , and the UN.
However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the agreed period was only 60 days after Russia warned that any further extension beyond mid-May would depend on the lifting of certain Western sanctions. Russia complained that its fertilizers were not reaching world markets despite the deal.
Earlier, in a further attempt to tighten the Kremlin’s grip on Russian discourse surrounding the war, Mr Putin signed a law that imposes heavy fines and prison terms of up to 15 years for discrediting or disseminated misleading information about volunteers or mercenaries fighting in Ukraine. The Wagner mercenary group has played a key role in Ukraine and recently launched a campaign to recruit 30,000 additional troops.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
The Independent Gt