An the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin paid a personal visit to the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea on Saturday. In the midst of the Ukraine war, Putin made a surprise trip to the port city of Sevastopol, the home port of the Russian Black Sea fleet, as reported by Russian television. Ukraine, meanwhile, reported new drone strikes in the west of the country, particularly in the region around Lemberg (Lviv).
It was the Kremlin chief’s first visit to Crimea since Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. Russia incorporated Crimea into its own territory on March 18, 2014. The annexation was preceded by a referendum that was not recognized by Kiev and the international community. The annexation was followed by sanctions by Western states, which have been drastically tightened since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.
Putin attended an art school in Sevastopol, accompanied by local governor Mikhail Rasvozhayev, TV channel Rossia-1 reported. Sevastopol is just 240 kilometers from the city of Kherson, which was retaken from the Ukrainian army in November after Russian troops withdrew. The Russian president has never been closer to the front since the beginning of the war.
Last visit in 2021
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich knows how to surprise. In the truest sense of the word, ”explained the governor in the online service Telegram. Actually, Putin wanted to take part in the inauguration of the art school for children via video conference. “But Vladimir Vladimirovich came personally. Steering. Because on such a historic day as today, he is always with Sevastopol and its people.”
Putin’s last visit to Crimea was in 2021. In May 2018 he also inaugurated the bridge connecting Crimea and mainland Russia by personally driving a truck across it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in January that he wanted to retake Crimea, “our country”, by force of arms. Moscow, on the other hand, keeps emphasizing that Crimea is Russian and refuses to negotiate about it.
Demonstrators loyal to the Kremlin
In Moscow, on the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, pro-Kremlin activists demonstrated in front of the embassies of 20 countries classified as “unfriendly”, including Germany, the USA, Great Britain and Poland. They “support Ukraine (…) and actively supply deadly weapons to the Ukrainian regime,” declared the youth movement “Molodaja gwardia” (“Young Guard”).
The Ukrainian President and US President Joe Biden’s “plan” is to “take back Crimea using these deadly weapons,” movement leader Anton Demidov said outside the US embassy, where around 400 people were demonstrating. The movement put the number of demonstrators at a total of 5,000.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army announced that on Friday evening the Russian army attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made drones. Eleven of 16 drones were “destroyed”.
The region around Lemberg (Lviv) in the extreme west of Ukraine was reportedly particularly targeted by the drones. “Around 01:00 in the morning, our region was attacked by Shahed-136 kamikaze drones,” said regional governor Maksim Kositski. Three drones were shot down and three others hit non-residential buildings, he added. There was damage, but no one was injured.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, three drones were also shot down in the Dnipro region in the southeast. There were no injuries there either, but “critical infrastructure” was hit in Novomoskovsk, there was a fire and four houses were destroyed and six others damaged.
However, drones aimed at the capital Kiev were all shot down by the Ukrainian air defense, the city administration said.
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