Russian President Putin visits occupied city of Mariupol


KYIV, Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited Ukraine. The occupied port city of Mariupolhis first trip to the region of Ukraine that Moscow illegally annexed in September.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin arrived in Mariupol late on Saturday A visit to the CrimeaOn the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula’s annexation by Ukraine, a short distance southwest of Mariupol. Mariupol became a symbol of defiance around the world after Ukrainian forces holed up in a steel mill there for nearly three months before Moscow finally took control of it in May.

The visits, during which Putin was shown chatting with locals in Mariupol and visiting an art school and a children’s center in Crimea, came two days after a court protest by the Russian leader. There were demonstrations. A warrant was issued for his arrest. On charges of war crimes

Putin has not commented on the arrest warrant, which has deepened his international isolation, despite the fact that he could face trial any time soon. The Kremlin has rejected this move by the International Criminal Court as legally invalid.

The trip also came ahead of one Planned a visit to Moscow By Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, Putin is expected to receive a major diplomatic boost in his confrontation with the West.

According to Russian news, Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and then took himself around the city’s “monuments”, the concert hall and the coastline. The state-run Russia 24 channel showed Putin on Sunday interacting with locals in what appeared to be a newly built residential complex, and was shown around one of the apartments.

After his trip to Mariupol, Putin met with Russian military leaders and soldiers at a command post in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, about 180 kilometers further east, and met with General Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of the Russian army. Operation Peskov in Ukraine said.

Peskov told reporters that the visit was unannounced, and that Putin intended to “inspect the work of the (command) post in its usual manner”.

Speaking to the state-run RIA news agency on Sunday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnolan made it clear that Russia is in Mariupol to stay. He said the government hopes to complete the reconstruction work of its damaged city by the end of the year.

“People have started to come back. When they saw that the reconstruction process is going on, people started to come back actively,” Khasnulan told RIA.

When Moscow completely captured the city in May, 100,000 people remained, out of an estimated pre-war population of 450,000. Many were stranded without food, water, heat or electricity. The continuous bombardment left rows upon rows of shattered or hollowed-out buildings.

The plight of Mariupol first came to international attention Russian airstrike on maternity hospital On March 9 last year, less than two weeks after Russian troops moved into Ukraine. A week later, a bombing in a theater that served as the city’s largest bomb shelter was reported to have killed nearly 300 people. Evidence obtained by the AP last spring suggested that The actual death toll may be closer to 600..

A small group of Ukrainian fighters Held for 83 days The sprawling Azovstal steel works in eastern Mariupol before the surrender, their dogged defenses blocking Russian forces and symbolizing Ukrainian resilience in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move deemed illegal by most of the world, and last September officially claimed four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine as Russian territory. went ahead, following a referendum that Kiev and the West described as a sham.

The ICC on Friday charged Putin with personal responsibility for the kidnapping of children from Ukraine. UN investigators also said there was evidence of the forced transfer of “hundreds” of Ukrainian children to Russia. According to Ukrainian government figures, more than 16,000 children have been deported to Russian-controlled areas or Russia itself, many from Mariupol.

Peskov confirmed on Sunday that Moscow “considers any decision of the International Criminal Court to be legally null and void.” Although Kiev welcomed the ICC’s move on Friday, the chances of Putin facing trial are slim because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its citizens.

In Ukraine, local authorities reported on Sunday that at least three civilians had been killed and at least 19 wounded by Russian shelling over the past 24 hours. Its governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, said on Ukrainian TV that all three were killed in the eastern Donetsk region, where fighting is raging for control of the city of Bakhmut. A 51-year-old woman was “fighting for her life” when Russian troops opened fire on the border town of Dvorichna, Kharkov regional governor Oleh Senyhobov said in a Telegram update.

A top Ukrainian presidential aide insisted on Sunday that Ukrainian troops were holding the line near Bakhmut, a key target of Russia’s months-long offensive. “The enemy’s plans to seize (the city) are now taking shape,” Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in televised remarks.

Taking Bakhmut would give the Kremlin a long-awaited battlefield victory after months of setbacks, and could pave the way for Russia to threaten other Ukrainian strongholds in the region, including Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. Is.

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