On the ninth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin personally visited the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea on Saturday. In the midst of the Ukraine war, Putin made a surprise trip to the port city of Sevastopol, the home port of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, Russian television reported. Meanwhile, Ukraine reported new drone attacks on the west of the country, especially in the region around Lviv (Lviv).

It was the Kremlin chief's first visit to Crimea since the beginning of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Russia incorporated Crimea into its own territory on March 18, 2014. The annexation was preceded by a referendum not recognized by Kiev and the international community. The annexation was followed by sanctions by Western states, which have been drastically tightened since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Putin, accompanied by local governor Mikhail Razvoshaev, visited an art school in Sevastopol, Rossia-1 TV reported. Sevastopol is only 240 kilometers from the city of Kherson, which was recaptured by the Ukrainian army in November after a withdrawal of Russian troops. The Russian president has never been closer to the front since the war began.

Last visit in 2021

"Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich knows how to surprise. In the truest sense of the word," said the governor in the online service Telegram. Actually, Putin had wanted to participate in the inauguration of the art school for children via video conference. "But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. At the helm. Because on such a historic day as today, he is always with Sevastopol and its people."

Putin's last visit to Crimea was in 2021. In May 2018, he also inaugurated the bridge between Crimea and the Russian mainland by personally driving a truck over it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj announced in January that he wanted to reconquer Crimea, "our country," by force of arms. Moscow, on the other hand, repeatedly stresses that Crimea is Russian and rejects negotiations on it.

Protesters loyal to the Kremlin

In Moscow, pro-Kremlin activists demonstrated in front of the embassies of 20 countries classified as "unfriendly", including Germany, the US, Great Britain and Poland, on the occasion of the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. These "support Ukraine (...) and are actively supplying lethal weapons to the Ukrainian regime," declared the youth movement "Molodaya gvardia" ("Young Guard").

The "plan" of the Ukrainian President and US President Joe Biden is to "retake Crimea with the help of these deadly weapons," said the leader of the movement, Anton Demidov, outside the US embassy, where around 400 people demonstrated. The movement put the number of demonstrators at a total of 5000,<>.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army said that on Friday evening, the Russian army attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made drones. Eleven out of 16 drones were "destroyed".

The region around Lviv (Lviv) in the far west of Ukraine was reportedly particularly in the sights of the drones. "Around 01:00 in the morning, our region was attacked by Shahed 136 kamikaze threats," said Regional Governor Maksim Kositsky. Three drones were shot down, three others hit buildings that are not residential, he added. Accordingly, there was damage, but no one was injured.

Three drones were also shot down in the Dnipro region in the southeast, according to Ukrainian authorities. There were no casualties there either, but "critical infrastructure" in Novomoskovsk was hit, there was a fire and four houses were destroyed and six others damaged.

Drones directed against the capital Kiev, however, had all been shot down by the Ukrainian air defense, said the city administration.