Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced journey to the occupied metropolis of Mariupol on Saturday, touring elements of the Ukrainian metropolis that’s now rebuilding after fierce assaults by Russian forces final yr.
It has been roughly 1o months since Russian forces took management of Mariupol in one of many key battles within the struggle in Ukraine, which has now been dragging on for greater than a yr.
Mariupol got here beneath siege by the Russian army in February of final yr, however native fighters had been in a position to maintain off the bigger and better-armed forces for a number of months earlier than shedding management of town in Could, making Mariupol a logo for Ukraine’s underdog spirit within the battle.
The town noticed intense violence through the Russian siege, together with Russia’s bombing of a theater that residents had been utilizing as a shelter from the combating. The human rights group Amnesty Worldwide would later name the theater bombing a struggle crime.
Mariupol can be residence to the Azovstal metal plant, the place Ukrainian troopers and civilians hid for weeks from Russian forces whereas refusing to give up in a stand in opposition to the invading army that turned identified internationally.
On Sunday, the Russian state information company Tass reported that Putin flew into Mariupol by way of helicopter earlier than being pushed and strolling across the metropolis. It was Putin’s first-ever go to to the Donbas area, which the Russian president illegally annexed in September.
“This journey appeared like a staged, managed occasion for Putin to spotlight Russian efforts to rebuild Mariupol, which in fact was destroyed by Russian forces within the battle for management of town final yr,” NPR’s Moscow correspondent Charles Maynes mentioned on Weekend Version Sunday.
“It additionally appeared a bit little bit of a response to President Biden’s journey to Kyiv a month in the past, provided that this was Putin’s first journey to those newly occupied and, in concept, newly annexed territories for the reason that begin of the struggle,” Maynes added.
Biden, in a shock go to to the Ukrainian capital in February, met with Ukrainian chief Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reaffirmed the U.S. authorities’s assist for Ukraine.
Based on Tass, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin informed Putin that residents who fled Mariupol on account of combating there final yr have been returning to town.
In the future earlier, Putin traveled to the close by area of Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s unlawful annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
Putin’s go to to Mariupol adopted the Worldwide Felony Court docket’s determination on Friday to challenge an arrest warrant for him and Russia’s commissioner for youngsters’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, over the alleged illegal deportation of youngsters from occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia.
Officers in Moscow dismissed the fees and famous that Russia — just like the U.S. — is just not a celebration to the Worldwide Felony Court docket.