Russian dictator goes to Crimea to mark 9-years of illegal annexation

(L-R) Head of the illegally installed pro-Russian administration of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, and Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov, chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, visit a children's arts-and-crafts center, 18 March 2023. Photo: PAP/EPA/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Crimea on Saturday on a supposedly unannounced visit to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine. Ironically, the war criminal accused of kidnapping countless Ukrainian children opened a children's arts-and-crafts center in Sevastopol.

Putin was greeted by the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, and taken to see a new children's center and art school on what the official said was a surprise visit.

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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, however, Russian officials were sent into hysterics, decrying the move as “null and void” and saying 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. The operation was carried out by “little green men”, Russian troops without national markings. The peninsula was then annexed following a referendum organized illegally in contravention of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing the territorial integrity of several post-Soviet states, including Ukraine, in exchange for them giving up the nuclear arsenal they inherited from the Soviet military.

The other original signatories of the Memorandum were signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia.

Ukraine says it will fight to expel Russia from Crimea and all other territories that Russia has occupied.

A zone of oppression and lack of freedom

“March 16 marked nine years since Russia held the fake ‘referendum on the status of Crimea’ and March 18 marks nine years since the day of the attempted illegal annexation, when the so-called ‘agreements on the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation’ were signed,” reads the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

According to the Ministry, the Crimean Peninsula has been suffering from the Kremlin's criminal regime, which has turned it into a military outpost, a zone of oppression and lack of freedom, aggression, and terror against everything and everyone who found the courage to resist and defend their democratic rights and values.

At the same time, it praised the clear and constant support from the international community, in particular, the support from the participants in the International Crimea Platform regarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, which is enshrined in the resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly, decisions of other international and regional organizations.

In the statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its gratitude for the readiness of Ukraine’s international partners to steadily move towards the complete de-occupation of all temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.