President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Crimea on Saturday for what were termed “reunification” events, nine years after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
Putin had earlier been expected to take part in the day’s ceremonies via video link, according to his spokesman, but was shown on state TV strolling in Sevastopol, the Black Sea port that is Crimea’s biggest city.
Putin also visited an arts school accompanied by local governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, according to images broadcast on the channel Rossiya-1.
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In a good way,” Razvozhayev said on the messaging app Telegram.
He said Putin had been expected to take part in the opening of a children’s art school by video link.
“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Behind the wheel. Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol,” the Moscow-appointed official said.
State media did not immediately broadcast any remarks from Putin, a day after the International Criminal Court said it had issued an arrest warrant against him and accused him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Putin has yet to comment publicly on the move. His spokesman has called it “null and void”, and said that Russia finds the very questions raised by the ICC to be “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Russia seized Crimea in 2014, eight years before launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine says it will fight to expel Russia from Crimea and all other territory that Russia has occupied in the year-long war.