Putin defiantly visits Mariupol, a city razed by Russian forces

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia travel to Mariupola Ukrainian city that his forces captured after a brutal siege; in a defiant and highly symbolic move that comes two days after an international court issued an arrest warrant. he.

The Kremlin said Putin had flown by helicopter to Mariupol, a city on the Sea of ​​Azov that was once a major industrial center before the invasion. 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 pushed Mariupol in One of the fiercest urban battles In recent times, the city is home to more than 400,000 people and is home to Europe’s largest steel mill.

This 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 a full-scale invasion in February. last year. 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 are gestures of defiance from the Kremlin less than 48 hours later an international court charged him with war crimes and issued an arrest warrant for him. The order states that Putin is personally criminally responsible for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children since the Russian invasion last year.

Deeply symbolic locations: This is Putin’s first trip since the start of the war to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where he has taken complete control of the region to fulfill his stated goal. of its forces.

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.

Ukraine is expected to launch a spring offensive to retake Russian-occupied territory, backed by new and sophisticated weapons from its NATO allies. 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 great 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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