Putin pays surprise visit to Mariupol in occupied Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has made a shock go to to Mariupol, the Ukrainian metropolis all however destroyed by his invading military final yr, in an obvious present of defiance after the Worldwide Felony Courtroom issued an arrest warrant accusing the Russian president of conflict crimes.

State tv confirmed Putin arriving on the port metropolis by helicopter within the early hours of Sunday. Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, claimed the whole journey to Mariupol had been deliberate “spontaneously” and stated Putin had pushed across the frontline metropolis and not using a full motorcade escort, in accordance with state newswire RIA Novosti.

It was the president’s first journey to Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine, together with 4 provinces Moscow is trying to annex, for the reason that full-scale invasion of the nation started final yr.

Putin has largely averted visiting the frontline, remaining largely in Moscow, the place even his prime officers’ entry to him is extremely restricted, and holding conferences on-line.

After visiting Mariupol, Putin made a uncommon public look in Rostov-na-Donu in southern Russia, the place he heard a report from chief of the final workers Valery Gerasimov, the primary commander of the Ukraine marketing campaign.

The journey to Mariupol, a part of 4 provinces claimed by Russia — though it doesn’t management the entire territory — got here a day after Putin made his first go to to Crimea, the peninsula he annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The unannounced journey underscores Putin’s willpower to press on with the faltering invasion regardless of Russia’s big casualties, financial isolation, and the ICC warrant, which accuses him of “particular person legal duty” for the compelled switch of youngsters from occupied areas of Ukraine.

Kyiv says greater than 16,000 kids have been kidnapped in the course of the conflict, together with greater than 1,000 from Mariupol, which Russian forces just about razed to the bottom after a brutal three-month siege.

Putin, who has not commented on the fees, and kids’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, might face arrest in the event that they journey to any nation that’s a part of the ICC.

Within the state tv footage, Putin was seen driving a black jeep by way of the streets of Mariupol accompanied by Marat Khusnullin, a prime Russian official, who confirmed him Russia’s efforts to rebuild the town.

He was taken to Mariupol’s philharmonic live performance corridor, the place Russia initially deliberate to carry present trials final yr accusing Ukrainian prisoners of conflict crimes earlier than scrapping the concept.

He was additionally proven talking to individuals state TV stated had been native residents who advised the president that they had been “praying for him” and thanked Russia for rebuilding their residences after their houses had been destroyed.

Ukrainian officers have stated not less than 22,000 of Mariupol’s prewar civilian inhabitants of half one million died within the siege, and estimate that the complete toll might be many instances greater.

However talking on Sunday, Khusnullin stated residents had been flocking again to Mariupol because of Russia’s reconstruction efforts. “Individuals have began to return again. Once they noticed that reconstruction is beneath approach, individuals began actively returning,” he stated.

He vowed to complete rebuilding the closely broken metropolis centre by the tip of the yr. He claimed that the destruction in Mariupol had been brought on by retreating Ukrainian forces.

Standing by his facet, Putin added: “They’re Nazis. First rate individuals gained’t do this.”

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