Putin ‘makes shock visit to occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol’ days after warrant issued for alleged war crimes
According to Russian state media, Vladimir Putin has paid a shock visit to the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
It comes just days after an arrest warrant was issued for the tyrant on alleged war crimes charges in the war-torn country.
State media reported that Putin made a “working trip” to the war-ravaged port city of Mariupol, his first visit to the Russian-held areas of Ukraine’s Donbass region since the conflict began.
Russian news agencies reported, citing the Kremlin, that Putin flew into the city in a helicopter.
He traveled through several districts of the city, making stops and speaking to local residents.
It is the closest to the front line that Putin has been since the start of the year-long war.
Mariupol fell in May after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, marking Russia’s first major victory after failing to capture Kiev and instead focusing on southeastern Ukraine
The Organization for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE) said Russia’s early bombing of a local maternity hospital was a war crime.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a series of trips to the battlefield to boost his troops’ morale and discuss strategy, Putin has largely remained in the Kremlin.
In the Nevsky district of Mariupol, Putin visited a family at their home, Russian media reported.
The new residential area was built by the Russian military and the first people moved in last September.
Russian authorities quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who was accompanying Putin, as saying that residents had returned “actively”.
Mariupol had a pre-war population of half a million people and was home to the Azovstal Steel Works, one of the largest in Europe.
Khusnullin said: “The city center was badly damaged.
“We want to finish (reconstruct) the center by the end of the year, at least the facade part. The center is very beautiful.”
Russian media broadcast videos showing the Russian leader driving a car through a built-up area at night and entering the Philharmonic Hall, which media reports said was restored in just three months.
There was also no immediate reaction to the visit from Kiev.
Mariupol is in the Donetsk region, one of the four regions that Putin annexed in September.
Kiev and its western allies condemned the move as illegal.
Russian media reported Sunday that Putin also met with the supreme commander of his military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
It comes after Putin appeared on Saturday in Ukraine’s disputed territory of Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Putin’s forces in 2014.
In the short clip, posted to Russian social media network VK, Putin, 70, was seen walking stiffly with his head bowed.
He was shown at the opening of an art school and children’s center in the port city of Sevastopol.
The visit comes after the International Criminal Court on Friday accused the Russian tyrant of “unlawfully deporting” children from Ukraine – a war crime under the Geneva Convention.
Alongside Putin, International Criminal Court officials accused his children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, of orchestrating the alleged kidnapping of thousands of children.
Video, shot in February, shows Putin and Lvova-Belova casually discussing how she brought a child back from Ukraine.
Putin approves Lvova-Belova’s personal adoption of the boy from Mariupol, a city in southern Ukraine devastated by last year’s Russian invasion.
Putin has yet to comment publicly on the ICC arrest warrant, but his trips to Russian-claimed Ukrainian territory have been viewed by some observers as an act of defiance.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/7666489/putin-ukrainian-city-mariupol-arrest-warrant/ Putin ‘makes shock visit to occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol’ days after warrant issued for alleged war crimes