The Russian president has traveled to the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol after a visit to Crimea. It is his first visit to territory occupied after the invasion of the country. In May last year, Mariupol was the first major city to be captured by Russian troops after the attack on Kyiv was repelled.
Putin arrived by helicopter in the city, which was largely destroyed in the siege last year. According to Russian media, he was driven around by car on a “working visit” focusing on what is being called the rebuilding of the city.
Putin spoke to residents of the city, visited a family’s home and inspected Mariupol’s marina and theater, according to state media. It is not known whether that was the same theater where hundreds of civilians were killed by a Russian bombing last year.
Putin also had a meeting with the commander of Russian troops in Ukraine, General Garasimov. Images of the visit are not yet available. Nor is there any independent confirmation of what Putin did in Mariupol.
Putin had traveled to Crimea from Moscow yesterday on the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s annexation. After militias deposed the provincial government there in 2014, Russia quickly annexed the area.
In Crimea, Putin visited, among other things, a cultural center in Sevastopol. He also met with the governor appointed by Russia.
Since the start of the war, Ukrainian President Zelensky has visited the front with some regularity, but Putin has rarely traveled far. In the past year he hardly made any foreign trips and he never visited the front. He did, however, visit Crimea once before.
Putin’s international movements will be further hampered by the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court last week. The court wants the Russian leader to answer for war crimes in The Hague for deportations of Ukrainian children from occupied territory. Countries affiliated to the criminal court are therefore obliged to arrest him.
In practice, the chance of an arrest will be small: important allies such as China, Iran or Syria do not recognize the court. The arrest warrant also seems to have had no influence on the good relationship with China: tomorrow President Xi is coming to Moscow for a three-day visit.
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