Provocateur Putin makes surprise trip to occupied Mariupol – POLITICO

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A defiant Vladimir Putin made a surprise weekend visit to Russian-occupied Mariupol, one of the symbols of Ukrainian resistance.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of ​​Azov, is located in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast and this is the Russian president’s first trip to the region since his war against Ukraine began in February 2022.

Mariupol fell to Russia last May after the Kremlin failed to seize kyiv. The Battle of Mariupol was one of the longest and bloodiest of the war, as troops from Moscow carried out some of their most notorious strikes. The Russian assaults included an attack on a maternity hospital, which the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said was a war crime, and the bombing of a theater clearly identified as housing children.

It is the closest to the front lines Putin has been since the start of the year-long war. This decision will probably be seen as particularly provocative for Ukrainians. The trip to Mariupol came after Putin visited Crimea on Saturday on an unannounced visit to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin’s visits come just after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian leader and senior Russian official Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova for the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia.

So far, during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has largely stayed inside the Kremlin, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made several trips to the battlefield to boost morale. Kyiv troops.

Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter, Russian news agencies reported, citing the Kremlin. Then he drove through several parts of town, driving a car and stopping to talk to locals.

The Kremlin said Putin also surveyed Mariupol’s coastline, visiting a yacht club and a theater. In the Nevsky district of Mariupol, Putin visited a family in their home. The new residential area was built by the Russian military and the first people moved in last September, according to media reports.

Residents have returned “actively”, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who accompanied Putin, was quoted by Russian agencies as saying. “The city center was badly damaged,” Khusnullin said. “We want to finish [reconstruction] of the center by the end of the year, at least the facade part. The center is very beautiful. »

There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv to the visit.

The Kremlin has yet to comment on the ICC arrest warrant. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used…” concluding with a toilet paper emoji.

Moscow has previously said it does not recognize the court’s authority.

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