Russian President Putin visits the occupied city of Mariupol
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit The port of the occupied city of MariupolOn Sunday, Russian official news agencies reported that he had made his first trip to the Ukrainian lands illegally annexed by Moscow in September.
earlier on Saturday, Putin traveled to Crimea, a short distance southwest of Mariupol, to celebrate the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea Peninsula from Ukraine. Mariupol became a symbol of defiance around the world after outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian forces held out at a steel plant there for nearly three months before Moscow finally captured it in May.
The visits, during which he appeared speaking with locals in Mariupol and visiting a technical school and children’s center in Crimea, were a show of defiance for the Russian leader two days after the trial. He issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes. Putin did not comment on the arrest warrant, which has deepened his international isolation, even though he is not likely to face trial anytime soon.
The trip also came before a Planned visit to Moscow By Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, he is expected to provide a major diplomatic boost for Putin in his confrontation with the West.
Russian news reports said Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and then drove himself around the city’s “memorial sites”, the concert hall and the coast, without specifying exactly when the visit took place. On Sunday, state channel Rossiya 24 showed Putin chatting with locals outside what appeared to be a newly built apartment complex, shown around one of the apartments.
Russian state media reported that following his trip to Mariupol, Putin met with Russian military leaders and forces at a command post in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia 180 kilometers to the east.
On Sunday, Russia 24 channel showed Putin being greeted by Valery Gerasimov, the Moscow officer in charge of the war in Ukraine, and led to a room where Gerasimov’s second-in-command and a group of men in military uniform were waiting. It was not possible to independently confirm the circumstances of the video shooting.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Sunday that the trip had not been announced in advance, and that Putin intended to “check (the leadership’s) work in its normal mode of operation.”
Speaking to the state-run RIA news agency Sunday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khosnullin made it clear that Russia was in Mariupol to stay. He said the government hopes to finish rebuilding the city center, which was destroyed by him, by the end of the year.
“People started coming back. And when they saw that the reconstruction was going on, people started coming back actively.”
When Moscow completely captured the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained outside the pre-war population of 450,000. Many of them were trapped without food, water, heat or electricity. The relentless bombing left rows upon rows of wrecked or hollow buildings.
The plight of Mariupol first appeared with A.S Russian air strike on a maternity hospital On March 9 last year, less than two weeks after Russian forces entered Ukraine. A week later, about 300 people were killed in the bombing of a theater that was being used as the largest bomb shelter in the city. Evidence obtained by the Associated Press last spring indicates that The true death toll could be closer to 600.
A small group of Ukrainian fighters He held out for 83 days At the sprawling steelworks at Azovstal in eastern Mariupol before the surrender, their relentless defense held down the Russian forces and come to symbolize Ukrainian perseverance in the face of Moscow’s aggression.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move most of the world denounced as illegal, and moved last September to formally claim four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine as Russian territory, after referendums that Kiev and the West called sham.
The International Criminal Court on Friday accused Putin of being personally responsible for the kidnapping of children from Ukraine. UN investigators also said there was evidence of the forcible transfer of “hundreds” of Ukrainian children to Russia. According to Ukrainian government figures, more than 16,000 children have been deported to Russian-controlled territory or to Russia itself, many of them from Mariupol.