Putin marks 9th anniversary of Crimea annexation with visit to peninsula

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which Russia unilaterally annexed nine years ago.

Russia's state media report that Putin on Saturday visited Sevastopol, where the headquarters of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet are located.

His itinerary included stops at an art school and a children's center.

Russian-appointed local officials said Putin's visit came as a surprise. It was on the ninth anniversary of the annexation, and apparently was his first since Russia invaded Ukraine almost 13 months ago.

Putin said on Friday that Crimea's security is a priority, and that Moscow will do everything needed to fend off any threats.

The visit comes as Ukrainian forces are poised to mount a counteroffensive in the country's east. Kyiv is demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea, as well as the areas it has occupied since last year's invasion.

The trip also comes one day after the International Criminal Court announced that it had issued an arrest warrant for Putin on suspicion of committing war crimes.

The court says there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.

The Kremlin called the ICC's decision "outrageous and unacceptable," noting that Russia does not recognize the court's jurisdiction.