President Putin Visits Mariupol in Defiance of ICC Arrest Warrant
In a surprise weekend visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the war-torn city of Mariupol, marking his first visit to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine’s Donbas region since the conflict began. The visit came shortly after Putin’s unannounced trip to Crimea to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, and just two days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader.
Putin’s visit into Ukrainian territory claimed by Russia was seen by some observers as an act of defiance against the ICC warrant. Mariupol was taken over by Russia in May after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, a troubling event for the Ukrainian government and its allies who continue to claim that the invasion is an imperialistic land grab that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people in Ukraine.
Putin flew to Mariupol for “a working trip,” reported Russian news agencies, and traveled to several districts in the city, making stops and talking to residents. It is the closest to the front lines Putin has been since the conflict started.
ICC Arrest Warrant Against Putin
The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Putin on Friday, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. This dramatic move further isolates the Russian leader from the international community but has yet to publicly comment on the warrant.
During the conflict that began in 2014 near the Crimean Peninsula, which separated Ukraine from Russia, many people were displaced from their homes, and these numbers grew. Ukrainian citizens suffered a lot, some being expelled from their homeland, some having their property seized, and some were taken to unknown locations with severe human rights violations.
Mariupol Reconstruction and Putin’s Visit
In the Nevsky district of Mariupol, Putin visited a family in their home. The new residential neighborhood was built by Russian military, with the first people moving in only last September. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who accompanied Putin, residents have been “actively” returning to their homes in the area.
Mariupol had a population of half a million people before the war and was home to the Azovstal steel plant, one of Europe’s largest. The center of the city has been heavily damaged, and Putin’s visit there was to inspect and make plans for rebuilding the area. Khusnullin announced that they hope to finish the reconstruction of the center of the city by the end of the year, at least the facade part, and that the center is very beautiful.
Russian media broadcast videos showing the Russian leader driving a car at night through a built-up area, walking into what media said was the Philharmonic, restored in just three months. There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv.
Russia’s Military Operation in Ukraine
While Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made several trips to the battlefield to boost the moral of his troops and talk strategy, Putin has remained inside the Kremlin while running what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine. Russian media reported on Sunday that Putin met with the top commander of his military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Donetsk, together with the Luhansk region, comprise most of the Donbas industrialized part of Ukraine that has witnessed the biggest battle in Europe for generations. Mariupol is in the Donetsk region, one of the four regions Putin moved in September to annex. Kyiv and its Western allies condemned the move as illegal.
President Putin’s trip to Mariupol was seen as a bold move to defy the ICC arrest warrant against him. During his visit, he inspected the reconstruction plans in the city and met families who have returned to the area. It was the closest Putin has been to the front lines of the conflict that began in 2014 in Ukraine. This visit further escalated tensions between Russia and Ukraine and strained relations with the ICC.#Putin #visits #Mariupol #part #surprise #tour #occupied #Ukraine #Reuters