Vladimir Putin, just a day after being issued an arrest warrant for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, was spotted on a surprise and unscheduled visit to Crimea, limping as reports of his ill health mount.
The 70-year-old Russian leader, in flamboyant defiance of the West, arrived in annexed Crimea today, Russian media reported.
Related videos circulating online show Putin at the port of Sevastopol, which has been the target of repeated Ukrainian raids in recent months.
It is recalled that today marks nine years since the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Putin was seen with aide Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of occupied Sevastopol, surrounded by six burly bodyguards apparently wearing bulletproof vests.
The 70-year-old leader appeared to be uncomfortable walking in contrast to earlier appearances this week in Moscow and the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude.
He is believed to have arrived at the port – headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – in a black Toyota Land Cruiser.
“Our President Vladimir Putin knows how to make pleasant surprises,” said the governor of Sevastopol.
Razvozhayev, who is not recognized as the governor of Sevastopol by the West, explained that Putin was supposed to contact him by video conference, but instead made a surprise visit to the peninsula, the governor said, adding that Putin himself drove to Sevastopol.
“Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol. Our country has an incredible leader,” he commented.
Putin was accompanied by Orthodox bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, his personal confessor.
Putin was seen walking close to other people in Sevastopol, in contrast to other appearances – notably on Friday – when he addressed oligarchs and business leaders from a distance.
Putin also visited the Korsun Children’s Center in Sevastopol.
It is his first visit to the annexed peninsula in three years.
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