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Putin visits Crimea, Mariupol on annexation anniversary

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President Vladimir Putin made unannounced visits to Crimea and the Ukrainian city of Mariupol at the weekend 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, Crimea’s biggest city. The president then flew into Mariupol in Donetsk Province, state news outlet Tass reported on Sunday.

The Crimea trip included the opening of a children’s art school and a visit to a youth center, according to Interfax. Putin reviewed reconstruction and restoration work in Mariupol, Tass said. The city was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

The two tours come after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine, a largely symbolic move for now that the Kremlin shrugged off.

Putin arrived in Sevastopol driving a car, Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Kremlin-installed governor of Sevastopol, said on Telegram. He also inspected an archaeological park devoted to the ancient city of Tauric Chersonese, according to Razvozhaev.

 

Putin’s previous full-scale visit to the peninsula was in 2020.

In December Putin drove a Mercedes across the Kerch Strait bridge to inspect repairs. The bridge, which links Crimea to Russia’s Krasnodar region, was seriously damaged by an explosion and fire in October.

The Kremlin blamed an act of “terrorism” by Ukraine for the incident, while Ukrainian officials didn’t claim responsibility. Stepped-up Russian missile attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure facilities started within days of the incident.


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