Putin visits occupied Crimea, a day after war crimes sanctions

President Vladimir V. Putin made a surprise visit to occupied Crimea to mark the 9th anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula, state media reported on Saturday, a gesture of defiance. just a day after an international court ordered his arrest.

Mr. Putin was scheduled to attend the ceremonies in Crimea via video link, but instead went to the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, local officials said. State media carried pictures of Putin wearing a sweater visiting an art school for children and talking with Mikhail Razvozhaev, the governor of Sevastopol.

“On such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol,” Razvozhaev wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Our country has an incredible leader.”

The visit signaled the Kremlin’s determination to resume business as usual, less than 24 hours after the International Criminal Court accused Putin of war crimes and war crimes. issue orders for his arrest. The court said that he criminal liability For the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children, thousands have been sent to Russia since his all-out invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. Russian officials dismissed the court’s announcement as meaningless and vowed not to cooperate.

Images of Mr. Putin walking freely in Crimea – which was seized by Russian troops in 2014 was the premise for his all-out invasion of Ukraine last February – and decided to visit a school for the shows children how an arrest warrant can’t change his behavior, even if it pierce the aura of punishment that surrounded him.

But Russia – which is expected to host China’s leader, Xi Jinping, starting his state visit on Monday – also agreed on Saturday to extend an agreement allowing grain shipments. leaving Ukraine, one of the few examples of cooperation between the warring parties since Mr. Putin’s all-out invasion of Ukraine.

The United Nations and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who helped broker the initial deal, announced a last-minute extension of the agreement, allowing Ukrainian grain ships to pass through the blockade. of the Russian navy in the Black Sea and help alleviate global food shortages and limit price increases.

The length of the extension remained unclear on Saturday. Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said on Twitter that the agreement had been extended by 120 days.

However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said her country had only agreed to extend the agreement for 60 days. according to the state news agency Tass. ONE Declaration of the United Nations didn’t say how long it would last.

The grain deal was set to expire later on Saturday. Earlier this week, Russia said it would agree to an extension of just 60 days because its food and fertilizer exports were hampered by sanctions. Ukraine, Turkey and UN push for 120-day extension, in line with original goal July agreement and with a follow-up extension in November.

The agreement allows ships carrying grain and fertilizer from Ukraine to safely pass through Turkish waters, where they are inspected by a joint team of officials from Turkey, the United Nations, Ukraine and Russia.

“This agreement, which has supplied 25 million tons of grain to the world market with more than 800 ships to date, is of vital importance for the stability of the global food supply,” Erdogan said. national television.

Although the deal is a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Ukraine and Russia since the war began, Moscow has held the agreement hostage at various points. At the end of October, the Kremlin suddenly suspend its participation after an attack on her warship in the port of Sevastopol, but it joins again a few days later.

Ukraine is a top exporter of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower, but its shipments plummeted after the war began. Exports from Russia, another major supplier, also fell.

Negotiations on extending the agreement began on Monday in Geneva. The previous extension deal, in November, was reached with days to spare.

Particles move through Black Sea, where Russia’s powerful naval fleet confronts three NATO members — Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria — who share a common coastline. This week, a US spy drone downed US officials say they fell into the sea after being attacked by a Russian warplane. It was the first known physical contact between the Russian and American militaries since the war began.

In recent months, Russian warships in the Black Sea have fired cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets sometimes hundreds of miles away, hitting towns and cities and damaging infrastructure. energy layer of this country.

On Monday, Mr. Putin is expected to host Mr. Xi, China’s top leader, in Russia to begin state visit. Xi’s trip, government not yet comment order of the ICChighlights how Russia maintains relationships with powerful allies that have mitigated the effects of Western isolation and diplomatic sanctions.

US officials say that China has so far refrained from providing military aid to Russia for use in Ukraine. President Biden emphasized to Xi that any such move would have “serious consequences” for the US-China relationship, US officials said.

Top U.S. military officials held a phone call on Friday with Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who gave “an update on battlefield conditions and expressed appreciation for the United States’ continued provision of security assistance,” according to a White House summary of the call.

On Saturday, Mr. Putin also added harsh punishment to silence critics of the war in Russia, signing a law that criminalizes speaking out against anyone fighting in Ukraine, including volunteers and others “facilitating missions of the Russian Armed Forces.” The new law is intended to prevent criticism of militants, including those from the private military company Wagner, which has been at the forefront of Russia’s bloody months-long war. attempt to capture the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

The move comes as Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, founder of Wagner, said on messaging app Telegram that his team planned to sign up about 30,000 new fighters by mid-May, from established recruitment centers in dozens of cities. Mr. Prigozhin, who had previously suggested that Wagner might end combat operations, offered no evidence to support his claim, which came after complaint week that the Russian Ministry of Defense had denied vital support to his group, including ammunition.

Ivan Nechepurenko And Nick Cumming-Bruce contribution report.


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