Putin visits Mariupol on his first trip to the Fallen City

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Mariupol, state media said Sunday, his first visit to the city since it fell under a long siege at the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

The trip comes after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin Russia allegedly deported thousands of Ukrainian children during the conflict.

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

According to the state news agency TASS, Putin flew by helicopter to Mariupol on Saturday and occasionally toured the city by car.

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

Putin stopped in Mariupol after making a surprise visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the peninsula.

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

Razvožayev said on the Telegram messaging app that Putin had been expected to attend the opening of the children’s art school via video link.

“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. He himself. 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 Kyiv and the international community.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January that he would seek to take back Crimea, despite Moscow’s refusal to include it in any potential peace talks.

Void ICC authorization

Putin’s visit comes after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Friday for the “deportation” of Ukrainian children.

According to Kyiv, more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported Russia since the start of the conflict in February 2022, many of them have been placed in institutions and foster homes.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told AFP that Putin is now eligible for arrest if he appears in one of the court’s more than 120 member states.

The 70-year-old Russian leader has not commented publicly on the order, but the Kremlin has since dismissed its validity as “empty”. Russia did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

The Hague-based court’s decision came ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow on Monday to sign agreements said to usher in a new era of relations.

China, Russia’s major ally, has tried to position itself as a neutral party to the conflict in Ukraine and urged Moscow and Kiev to start negotiations.

However, Western leaders have repeatedly criticized Beijing for its lack of condemnation Russia’s attack, accusing Moscow of providing diplomatic cover for its campaign.

The grain contract has been extended

In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two sides had agreed to extend a deal that has allowed Ukraine, a major grain exporter, to resume exports after Russian warships blocked its Black Sea ports.

But there was disagreement over the terms.

The Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine said that the contract has been extended by 120 days, but the spokesperson of Ukraine Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow had agreed to a 60-day extension.

The agreement brokered by Turkey and the UN in July 2022 had made it possible for exports to pass safely, and it was already extended for 120 days in November.

The fighting is now concentrated in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, especially in the city of Bahmut.

Russian strikes hit the nearby city of Kramatorsk on Saturday, killing two people and wounding 10, said the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, who accused Moscow of using cluster bombs in the attack.

AFP reporters in Kramatorsk heard about 10 explosions almost simultaneously just before 4:00 p.m. local time (14:00 GMT) and saw smoke billowing above a park in the southern part of the city.

They found the woman dead from her injuries at the scene.

Leave a Comment