Vladimir Putin pays surprise visit to Mariupol since its fall

Photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (center), Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Rizozhev (left), listens to Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkonov (r) as they mark the 9th anniversary of Crimea’s statehood and referendum. Visiting the Chersonesos Taurica Historical and Archaeological Park. March 18, 2023 – AFP
  • Putin visited several locations and spoke with residents, TASS said.
  • His visit to Crimea coincides with the 9th anniversary of its annexation.
  • Russia besieged Mariupol at the start of its offensive last year.

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin On Sunday, state media made a surprise visit to Mariupol, the first since the city was captured after a long siege at the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The visit took place after an arrest warrant was issued. Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC), over Russia’s alleged deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children during the conflict.

Russia laid siege to Mariupol at the start of its offensive last year, destroying the Azovstal steelworks, the last holdout of Ukrainian forces in the city.

According to the official news agency TASS On Sunday, Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter on Saturday and sometimes visited the city by car.

He visited several places and spoke to residents, and was presented with a report on the city’s reconstruction work.

Putin’s stop in Mariupol comes after a surprise visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s annexation.

Russian state TV showed him visiting the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, accompanied by Moscow-appointed governor Mikhail Razauzhaev.

Putin was expected to attend the opening of the children’s art school via video link, Razozhayev said on the messaging app Telegram.

“But Vladimir Vladimirovich himself came personally. Behind the wheel. Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol,” he said.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a referendum that was not recognized by Kiev or the international community.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland in January, Ukraine’s president Vladimir Zelensky He said his goal is to take back Crimea, although Moscow has refused to include it in potential peace talks.

‘Void’ ICC warrant

Putin’s visit came as the ICC issued arrest warrants for him on Friday over the “deportation” of Ukrainian children.

Kiev says more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia. Conflict in February 2022many of them are placed in institutions and foster homes.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said AFP That Putin is now liable to arrest if he sets foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states.

The 70-year-old Russian leader has not commented publicly on the warrant, but the Kremlin dismissed its endorsement as “null and void” because Russia does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.

The Hague-based court’s ruling comes ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow on Monday to sign agreements that have been hailed as the start of a new era in relations.

China, a major Russian ally, has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, urging Moscow and Kiev to open talks.

But Western leaders have repeatedly criticized Beijing for failing to condemn Russia’s attack, accusing it of giving Moscow diplomatic cover for its campaign.

Ukraine-Russia Grain Agreement Extension

In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two sides had agreed to extend a deal to resume exports to Ukraine, a major grain exporter, after its Black Sea ports were blocked by Russian warships. Allowed to start. But there was disagreement over the terms.

Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended by 120 days, but a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Moscow had agreed to a 60-day extension.

A deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 allowed safe passage of exports and was already extended for 120 days in November.

Fighting is now concentrated in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, particularly in the city of Bakhmut.

Russian strikes hit the nearby city of Kramatoruk on Saturday, killing two people and wounding 10, regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said, accusing Moscow of using cluster bombs in the attack.

AFP Journalists in Kramatorsk heard about 10 simultaneous explosions just before 4:00 pm local time (1400 GMT) and saw smoke billowing from a park in the southern part of the city.

They saw that a woman succumbed to her injuries and died on the spot.

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