Defiant Putin Visits Mariupol, Second Stop in Tour of Occupied Ukraine

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia travel to Mariupolhis second surprise visit to Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine this weekend, and a gesture of defiance shortly after an international court issued an arrest warrant for him.

Putin flew to Mariupol, a major Ukrainian industrial hub on the Sea of ​​Azov, by helicopter, the Kremlin said in a statement. statement on Sunday. In the city, Putin drove from the airport through several neighborhoods, the Kremlin said, to inspect reconstruction works with a top Russian official responsible for infrastructure. The Kremlin also said Mr Putin had spoken to a number of local residents.

Before the Russian invasion turned Mariupol into one of the fiercest urban battles of recent times, the city was home to more than 400,000 people and was home to Europe’s largest steel mill.

It is Putin’s second unannounced trip over the weekend to Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, and the closest the Russian leader has taken to the front line since the invasion last February. . His trip on Saturday to Crimea was arranged to coincide with the 9th anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula.

Two high-level visits were also gestures of defiance from the Kremlin less than 48 hours later An international court has issued an arrest warrant for him. The order states that Putin is personally criminally responsible for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children that have taken place since the Russian invasion last year.

In addition to Mariupol, Putin on Sunday also visited the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where he met with top military commanders involved in the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

Since the beginning of winter, both sides have been in a fierce battle for land in the east where the frontline has barely moved, each army running short of ammunition and suffering increasing casualties. Putin showed no signs of loosening up or coming to the negotiating table, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to retake all of the territory Russia has taken, including Crimea.

So far, Ukraine has regained about half of that territory. And it has convinced some of its allies in NATO to provide their most valuable weapons, including tanks, missiles, anti-missile systems and – just last week – combat aircrafts. As the war enters its second year, Putin finds himself even more isolated, with a growing list of sanctions threatening to reduce Russia’s income from oil and gas sales.

On Monday, he will host Moscow’s most important ally, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, giving Putin an opportunity to reiterate a theme the Kremlin has emphasized since the start of the war: International support for Ukraine is limited to Western countries.

China says Xi’s 3-day visit benefits Beijing chance to push Putin into peace talks and hinted that a call with Mr. Zelensky might follow. But the United States has argued that China is not an honest broker and is providing Russia with much-needed supplies for the war, accusations that China has denied and that has helped push the envelope. relations between the two powers have reached their lowest point in decades.

For months last year, Russia poured thousands of troops into Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s most prosperous cities before the war, and indiscriminately bombarded apartment buildings there. Outnumbered and outnumbered, the Ukrainian army held out for weeks, eventually taking shelter in the city’s steel mill. Finally in May, Ukrainian forces withdrew, leaving the devastated city under Russian control.


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