Vladimir Putin was seen limping as he made a surprise visit to Crimea amid claims he is suffering from health problems, a day after war crimes arrest warrant was issued for the Russian leader.
The 70-year-old defied the West and arrived in annexed Crimea today, said Russian media reports.
Footage appeared to show Putin in the naval port Sevastopol which has been targeted by repeated Ukrainian strikes in recent months.
His arrival came one day after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on war crimes accusations.
Today marks the ninth anniversary of his illegal annexation of Crimea.
Putin was seen with his placeman Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of occupied Sevastopol, surrounded by six bulky bodyguards wearing bullet pro bulletproof
The 70-year-old leader appeared to be in discomfort when he walked in contrast to earlier appearances this week in Moscow and the Siberian city Ulan-Ude.
He arrived in the port – HQ of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – in a black Toyota Land Cruiser.
‘Our President Vladimir Putin knows how to surprise in a good way,’ said the governor.
He had been due to appear on a video conference but made the unexpected appearance in the disputed peninsula, said the governor who is unrecognised by the West.
‘Vladimir Vladimirovich came himself, driving.
‘Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and Sevastopol residents. Our country has an incredible leader.’
With him too was Orthodox Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, Putin’s confessor who has likened the dictator to Tsar Peter the Great.
Putin was seen close to other people in Sevastopol, unlike other appearances – notably on Friday – when he addressed oligarchs and business leaders from a distance.
The trip came amid claims in some quarters that Putin is suffering health problems and uses body doubles – doppelgängers – for some appearances during the war he unleashed one year ago on Ukraine.
Putin was seen visiting the Korsun Children’s Centre in Sevastopol.
It is his first visit to the annexed peninsula in three years.
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin yesterday amid accusations of war crimes during his faltering invasion of Ukraine.
Karim Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor said hundreds of children have been unlawfully taken from orphanages and children’s homes in occupied areas of Ukraine and transported to Russia to be given to new families.
Putin has become only the third serving president to have been issued an ICC arrest warrant, after Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and the first leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The ICC’s warrant now obligates its 123 member states to arrest the Russian president and transfer him to The Hague for trial should he set foot on their territory.
But the Kremlin today slammed the court’s decision as ‘outrageous and unacceptable’, instead insisting any decisions of the ICC are ‘null and void’ concerning Russia as Moscow does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.
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