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Putin Angers Ukraine With Visit To Russia-Annexed Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets with the acting governor of Sevastopol, Dmitry Ovsyannikov, as he visits the Black Sea port on August 18.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 18 visited the city of Sevastopol in Crimea, triggering an angry rebuke from Kyiv, which accused him of disregarding international law by traveling to the Ukrainian peninsula seized by Moscow three years ago.

Putin's visit included a trip to a memorial complex honoring a coastal battery that defended Sevastopol during World War II, where he and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev placed flowers and met with members of the Night Wolves, a pro-Kremlin biker movement.

The trip is at least the ninth visit by Putin to Crimea since it was annexed by Russia in March 2014. Both the United States and the European Union have hit Moscow with several waves of sanctions over the land grab and Russia's backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry denounced Putin's visit in an August 18 statement, condemning it as a "gross violation of Ukraine's state sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The ministry added that it had delivered a note of protest to the Russian Foreign Ministry over what it called Moscow's "cynical and demonstrative disregard" for "generally accepted norms of international law."

In March 2014, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the Russian-orchestrated referendum on Crimea's secession from Ukraine was invalid and urging the international community "not to recognize any alteration of the status" of the peninsula.

The measure passed by a vote of 100-11 with 58 abstentions.

"Crimea and the city of Sevastopol are and will remain an integral part of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

The war between Russia-backed separatists and Kyiv's forces that followed the Crimea annexation has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014 and persisted despite a pact known as Minsk II, a February 2015 agreement on a cease-fire and steps to resolve the conflict.

With reporting by TASS