Vladimir Putin on Saturday made a last-minute visit to Crimea to tour a “children’s palace” he commissioned, just a day after being labelled a war criminal for abducting thousands of boys and girls from Ukraine.
The Russian president ostensibly arranged the trip to mark the ninth anniversary of his annexation of the Ukrainian territory in 2014, but it was widely seen as a pointed response to the International Criminal Court’s decision on Friday to issue an arrest warrant for him.
“The president knows how to surprise,” said Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Kremlin-installed governor of the region. “Everything had been prepared for a video-conference when before you know it he comes down here personally. By car. He was at the wheel.”
Mr Putin had ordered the Korsun Children’s Centre to be built in May 2021, seven months before his planned full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the start of the mass abduction of Ukrainian children.
The four-storey “Byzantine-style” building set in parkland on the lush Black Sea coast has been completed but isn’t yet open. Its website said that it hosts a theatre, a cinema, more than 500 classrooms and can sleep up to 300 children.