Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to Crimea on Saturday to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the peninsula's acquisition from Ukraine, a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him on war crimes charges.
Russian state news agencies reported that Putin visited an art school and a children's facility that are part of a project to construct a historical park on the site of an old Greek colony.
Friday, the International Criminal Court accused him of having personal responsibility for the abductions of Ukrainian children during Russia's nearly 13-month-long invasion of the neighbouring country.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which most of the world condemned as unlawful. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has asked that Russia depart from the Crimean Peninsula and the places it has occupied since the previous year.
Putin has demonstrated no inclination to surrender the Kremlin's achievements. Instead, he emphasized the significance of retaining Crimea on Friday.
He added that security concerns are now the primary priority for Crimea and Sevastopol, referring to the largest city in Crimea. We shall do everything necessary to repel all threats.
According to Moscow-installed governor Mikhail Razvozhaev, Putin flew the 1,821 kilometres (1,132 miles) from Moscow to Sevastopol, where he took the automobile wheel that drove him about the city.
The ICC issued its first arrest warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent United Nations Security Council members. The court in The Hague, Netherlands, also issued an arrest order for Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children's Rights in the Russian Federation's Office of the President.
Russia quickly rejected the move, but Ukraine hailed it as a huge breakthrough. Yet, it is highly doubtful that the ICC will try Putin because Russia does not recognize the court's authority and does not extradite its citizens.
Despite the court's decision and its implications for Putin, the United Nations and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday that a wartime agreement allowing the grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia had been extended, though neither party specified for how long.
Oleksandr Kubrakov, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, tweeted that the agreement had been extended for 120 days, the length desired by Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations. Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, informed the Russian news agency Tass that Moscow agreed to a 60-day extension.
Russia and Ukraine are key global providers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other affordable food supplies on which poor countries rely. Last year, they signed separate agreements with the United Nations and Turkey to allow food to escape the blockaded Ukrainian ports.
Russia has complained that its fertilizer exports, which its agreement was meant to help, are not reaching global markets. In November, the government momentarily withdrew from the accord before rejoining and agreeing to a 120-day extension.
Putin on Saturday signed a measure that stipulates severe penalties for discrediting or distributing false information about volunteers or mercenaries fighting in Ukraine. The law defines a fine of 50,000 rubles ($660) for a first offence and imprisonment for up to 15 years for subsequent offences.
Similar to a law issued during the early stages of the war, this law prohibits speaking badly about soldiers or the Russian military.
Wagner Group, a private Russian military corporation renowned for its aggressive methods, has played a crucial role in Ukraine, particularly in Russia's arduous fight to seize the eastern Donetsk region town of Bakhmut.
Authorities in Ukraine reported many Russian assaults between Friday evening and Saturday early. The Ukrainian air force headquarters wrote on Telegram that 11 of 16 drones were shot down during attacks that targeted, among other sites, the capital, Kyiv, and the western province of Lviv.
Serhii Popko, the chairman of the Kyiv city administration, stated that Ukrainian air defences shot down all capital-bound drones. Saturday, the governor of Lviv, Maksym Kozytskyi, reported that three of six drones were shot down, with the remaining three striking a territory bordering Poland.
According to the Ukrainian air force, the strikes originated from the eastern shore of the Sea of Azov and the bordering Russian region of Bryansk.
The Ukrainian military stated that Russian forces fired 34 airstrikes, one missile strike, and 57 rounds of anti-aircraft fire between Friday morning and Saturday am. Seven homes and a daycare were reportedly damaged by falling debris in the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson.
Russia continues to concentrate most of its offensive operations in the industrial east of Ukraine, targeting Bakhmut and other areas of Donetsk province.
The regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, reported that eleven towns and villages in the province were shelled on Friday, resulting in one death and three injuries.
Overnight, Russian rockets struck a residential neighbourhood in Zaporizhzhia, the regional seat of the same-named partially controlled province. Anatoliy Kurtev of the Zaporizhzhia City Council stated that there were no confirmed injuries, although homes were damaged.
Saturday, British military authorities stated that Russia would likely expand compulsory conscription to replace its war forces in Ukraine. In its most recent study, the U.K. Defense Ministry said that the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, proposed a bill to modify the draft age for men from 18-27 to 21-30.
According to the ministry, many Russian men between 18 and 21 seek exemptions from military service because they are enrolled in postsecondary institutions. Due to the more extensive age range, they would eventually have to serve. British officials say the measure will likely pass and go into force in January 2024.