MOSCOW: Russian state media reported that President Vladimir Putin visited the war-torn port of Mariupol over the weekend, marking Putin’s first trip to Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine’s Donbas region since the conflict broke out.
After Putin unexpectedly visited Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on Tuesday.
Putin has not yet made a public statement about the ICC warrant, but his incursions into Ukrainian territory that Russia claims as its own were interpreted by some as a defiant gesture.
After failing to capture Kyiv and refocusing on southeastern Ukraine, Russia scored a major victory in May when they were able to take Mariupol.
The OSCE has called Russia’s early morning bombing of a maternity hospital in that region a war crime.
Russian media outlets reported that Putin took a helicopter to Mariupol for “a working trip,” quoting the Kremlin. All over the city, he went to different neighborhoods to meet with locals and hear their stories.
Putin has not been this close to the front lines since the beginning of the war a year ago.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on Friday, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. This is a symbolic action that further isolates the Russian leader.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has visited the front lines several times to bolster morale and discuss strategy, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has mostly stayed in the Kremlin while overseeing Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
For Kyiv and its allies, the 13-month invasion is an imperialist land grab that has cost the lives of thousands and displaced millions in Ukraine.
BEAUTIFUL CENTER CITY
According to Russian media, Putin paid a home visit to a family in the Nevsky neighborhood of Mariupol. The Russian military has been responsible for the construction of a brand new residential neighborhood, which welcomed its first residents in September of last year.
Russian agencies quoted Putin’s traveling companion, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, as saying that residents have been “actively” returning.
Before the war, Mariupol was home to one of the largest steel mills in Europe, Azovstal, and had a population of half a million people.
It’s bad news for downtown,” Khusnullin said. We hope to have the facade of the center completed by the end of the year. The heart is the most attractive part.
Videos of the Russian leader driving a car at night through a populated area and entering what was reported to be the philharmonic after its three-month restoration aired on Russian media.
Also, the Kyiv visit received no immediate response.
Located in the Donetsk region, Mariupol was annexed by Putin in September along with three other regions. The Ukrainian capital and its Western allies strongly criticized the action. Donbas, which includes Donetsk and the surrounding Luhansk region, is the most industrialized part of Ukraine and the site of the largest military conflict the continent has seen in decades.
The Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Moscow’s war in Ukraine, reportedly met with Putin on Sunday, according to Russian media.