Putin Takes Submersible Ride off Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in a subsea expedition to explore ancient ships that sank in the Black Sea on Tuesday, sparking friction with Ukrainian leaders.
The president went down to a depth of 82 meters (270 feet) on board a submersible craft and examined the remains of a Byzantine vessel that sank near the entrance to Balaklava Bay in Sevastopol in the Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow last year.
The subsea expedition was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society’s establishment 170 years ago, and the Kremlin has stated that the aim of Putin's controversial three-day trip to the area is to promote tourism.
However Putin has also spoken about the Ukraine crisis and warned the peninsula's minority ethnic Tatars that they should not seek special status.
The Ukrainian President made a statement saying that Putin’s presence exacerbates political tensions in the region.
Putin responded to media questions on his return to the surface saying “I will not comment on anything in this regard, because the future of Crimea has been determined by the people who live here. They voted in favor of reuniting with Russia. Period.”
On further questioning, he stated: “Today, on the 170th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society we are holding events designed to revive an interest in national history. I consider this to be very important for the country. Tomorrow we will deal with security matters.”