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Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula nine years after proclaiming its occupation "official," Russian state-controlled reported on March 18.
In February 2014, Russia occupied Ukraine's Crimea using soldiers without insignia. On March 16, 2014, the Kremlin orchestrated a sham referendum to justify its occupation, illegal under international law. On March 18, 2014, Putin announced Crimea as being part of Russia, a statement null and void, according to Ukraine and most UN members.
Putin's visit to Crimea came a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin for overseeing the "unlawful deportation of children" from Ukraine.
Ukraine said that "it's only the beginning" of a long road ahead to punish Russia for its war crimes committed in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Moscow dismissed the ICC's decision, with the Foreign Ministry claiming that “decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal standpoint."
The ICC's arrest warrant enables countries that have adopted the Rome Statute to arrest Putin. Ukraine signed the statute in 2000 but has not ratified it to date.
More than 16,000 children were forcibly removed from Ukraine in total since the start of the full-scale invasion, according to the National Information Bureau's March data.
At least 6,000 Ukrainian children deported by the invading Russian troops were forcibly taken to Russian-occupied Crimea, Regional Center for Human Rights (RCHR) lawyer Kateryna Rashevska told Ukrainian media outlet Ukrinform in January.