(Moscow) Vladimir Putin was in Crimea on Saturday for the 9th anniversary of the annexation of this Ukrainian peninsula by Russia, a surprise trip the day after the issuance of an international arrest warrant against the Russian president.

This is the Kremlin master’s first trip to Crimea since the outbreak of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, which earned Russia a series of severe international sanctions, in addition to those already imposed following the 2014 annexation.

Arriving in Sevastopol, home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Mr. Putin notably attended the inauguration ceremony of a school of arts for children in the company of the local governor, Mikhail Razvojayev, according to the images broadcast by the public television channel Rossia-1.

As the city is only about 240 km from Kherson, a southern Ukrainian city recaptured by the Kyiv army in November after the withdrawal of Russian forces, Mr. Putin’s trip is also the first to such a place. close to the front line.

“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In the good sense of the word,” Mr. Razvojayev wrote on Telegram.

According to him, a school of arts for children was to be inaugurated on Saturday with the participation of the Russian leader by videoconference.

“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Driving. Because on a historic day like today, he is always with Sevastopol and its people,” said Mikhail Razvojayev.

“Our country has an incredible leader! “, he enthused.

Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum not recognized by Kyiv and the international community.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that he intended to take back Crimea – “our land” – with arms, Moscow continues to insist that “Crimea is Russian”, refusing to make it the object of possible peace negotiations.

Vladimir Putin, whose last visit to Crimea dates back to November 2021, has been targeted since Friday by an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of the war crime of “illegal deportation”. of Ukrainian children.

The Kremlin has ruled the warrant “null and void,” the issuance of which was announced the same day Moscow and Beijing unveiled Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia next week, meant to usher in a “new era” in relations between two allies.

This visit will take place from March 20 to 22, a little over a year after the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine which led the Kremlin to reorient itself towards China, amid tensions with the West which supports the ‘Ukraine.

Last month, China sought to establish itself as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict by issuing a document urging Moscow and Kyiv to hold peace talks.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba, once again urged Kyiv and Moscow to resume peace talks “as soon as possible”.

“We have repeatedly stated that we are open to really serious proposals from the West and Ukraine on resolving the crisis by politico-diplomatic means,” the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy said on Saturday. , Maria Zakharova.

“But the language of ultimatums is unacceptable to us,” she said, calling in particular for the “lifting of all illegitimate sanctions and the cancellation of all proceedings against Russia in international judicial bodies”.