Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced visit to Crimea on Saturday (March 18) to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
Putin’s visit to Crimea comes at a time when the International Criminal Court (ICC) has an arrest warrant on his head. Basically, the court accused him of being involved in war crimes.
Qatar-based media Al Jazeera reported this information in a report on Saturday.President Putin was greeted Saturday by the Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozaev, and later taken to see a new children’s center and art school, according to reports. The Russian official described Putin’s visit as a surprise.
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise,” Razvozaev said on messaging app Telegram. He can do it very well.’
The Moscow-appointed official added, ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich came here personally. Driving himself. On such a historic day, the Russian President is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol.’
Russian state media, however, did not immediately broadcast any of Putin’s comments, Al Jazeera said. The visit came a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin and charged him with war crimes for illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
President Putin has yet to publicly comment on the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant. But a Kremlin spokesman termed it ‘ineffective’, saying Russia considers the issues raised by the ICC to be ‘offensive and unacceptable’.
Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Eight years before that, in 2014, Moscow seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. But Ukraine has said it will continue to fight to expel Russia from all other territories, including Crimea.
Putin, however, has expressed no desire to relinquish any territory Russia has seized. Instead, he stressed on Friday the importance of maintaining the occupation of Crimea.
“Of course, security issues are now the top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” Putin said that day, referring to Sevastopol, Crimea’s largest city. We will do whatever it takes to counter any threat.’
Earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes in Ukraine. The main accusation against Putin is that he illegally moved Ukrainian children to Russia.
The court says that this crime has been happening since the beginning of Russia’s operation in Ukraine on February 24 last year. An arrest warrant has also been issued against Maria Elvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights of the Russian Presidential Office, on the same charge.
Basically, the International Criminal Court has judicial powers, but does not have the power to arrest any accused. What the ICC can do is to arrest the accused with the help of various countries and bring him to trial in The Hague, Netherlands after the arrest.
In addition, the ICC can exercise its jurisdiction only in countries that have signed the treaty establishing the court. The treaty is known as the Rome Statute. Russia has not signed this statute. Therefore, there is no chance of extraditing Putin or Maria Elvova-Belova to this court for the time being.