Putin was greeted by Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Crimea's largest city, and was shown a new children's center and art school. Officials for Crimea said the visit was a surprise to them as well, according to Reuters.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, eight years before launching its full invasion into Ukraine. Ukraine has fought to reclaim the peninsula during the invasion, and said it would fight for all other territory that Russia has occupied in its year-long war, but Russia has refused to relinquish the country.
“Obviously, security issues take top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol now,” Putin said on Friday. “We will do everything needed to fend off any threats.”
The visit comes a day after the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on Friday. The United Nations determined that Putin's forceful deportation of children in Ukraine constituted a war crime on Thursday.
“[Putin is] allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation," the warrant said.
Putin has not commented on the arrest warrant so far, but a spokesman for the Kremlin called the move "null and void," and said that Russia finds the very questions raised by the ICC to be "outrageous and unacceptable."
The ICC also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, whom they said also shared responsibility for the deportations.