RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, made a surprise weekend visit to the war-torn port of Mariupol, marking his first trip to the Russian-occupied areas of the Ukraine’s Donbas region since the battle began, state media reported.
The visit took place after Vladimir Putin’s unannounced visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the 9th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine and just two days following an arrest warrant issued for the Russian president by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Vladimir Putin has not yet formally responded to the ICC warrant, but some observers viewed Putin’s forays into Russian-annexed Ukrainian territory as an act of defiance.
After a bloody and lengthy fight, Mariupol fell in May, giving Russia its first significant victory since failing to take Kiev and concentrating instead on the southeast of the country.
Russia’s early bombing of a maternity facility there was deemed a war crime by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Vladimir Putin traveled to Mariupol on “a working trip” by helicopter, according to Russian news agencies quoting the Kremlin. He made his way through a number of the city’s neighborhoods, stopping along the way to speak with locals. Since the start of the year-long conflict, Putin has never been this close to the front lines.
Vladimir Putin hasn’t been this close to the front lines since the year-long conflict started.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest order for Vladimir Putin on Friday, accusing him of the war crime of forcibly removing hundreds of children from Ukraine. This highly symbolic action further isolates the Russian president.
While Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made several trips to the battlefield to boost the morale of his soldiers and discuss strategy, Putin has mostly stayed inside the Kremlin while running what Russia refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The invasion, which is now in its 13th month, is being described by Kiev and its allies as an imperialist land grab that has caused thousands of deaths and millions of evictions in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin reportedly paid a family a visit at their home in the Nevsky District of Mariupol, according to Russian media reports. Russian armed personnel constructed the new residential neighborhood, with the first inhabitants moving in last September.
Citizens have been “actively” returning, Marat Khusnullin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, who accompanied Putin, was quoted as saying by Russian agencies.
Before the conflict, Mariupol had a population of 500,000 and was home to one of Europe’s biggest steel plants, Azovstal.
Mariupol is located in Donetsk territory, one of the four areas that Putin moved to annex in September. The action was criticized as illegal by Kiev and its western allies.
Most of the industrialized Donbas region of Ukraine, which includes the Luhansk region and Donetsk, has been the scene of the biggest fight in Europe in generations.
Putin also met with the senior commanders regarding his military operation in Ukraine, including Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, who is in charge of Russia’s war in Ukraine, as reported by Russian media on Sunday.
Also Read: ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Putin over War Crimes in Ukraine