Defiant Putin Visits Mariupol, a Metropolis Razed by Russian Forces

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia traveled to Mariupol, a Ukrainian metropolis his forces captured after a devastating siege, in a defiant and extremely symbolic transfer that got here two days after a world court docket issued a warrant for his arrest.

Mr. Putin flew by helicopter to Mariupol, a metropolis on the Azov Sea that was a serious industrial hub earlier than the invasion, the Kremlin stated in an announcement on Sunday. Within the metropolis, Mr. Putin drove from the airport by way of a number of neighborhoods, the Kremlin stated, inspecting reconstruction works with a high Russian official accountable for infrastructure. The Kremlin additionally stated that Mr. Putin spoke with some native residents.

Earlier than the Russian invasion plunged Mariupol into one of many fiercest city battles of latest instances, the town was residence to greater than 400,000 individuals and the positioning of Europe’s largest metal plant.

It was Mr. Putin’s second unannounced journey of the weekend to Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, and the closest the Russian chief has been to the entrance traces for the reason that full-scale invasion final February. His journey on Saturday to Crimea was timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Russia’s unlawful annexation of the peninsula.

The 2 high-profile visits have been defiant gestures from the Kremlin lower than 48 hours after a world court docket accused him of warfare crimes and issued a warrant for his arrest. The warrant claims that Mr. Putin bears particular person legal duty for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian kids since Russia’s invasion final yr.

The areas have been deeply symbolic: This was Mr. Putin’s first journey for the reason that warfare started to the Donbas area of japanese Ukraine, full management of which he has made the acknowledged goal of his forces.

Other than Mariupol, Mr. Putin on Sunday additionally visited the Russian metropolis of Rostov-on-Don, the place he met with high army commanders concerned within the warfare in Ukraine, the Kremlin stated.

For the reason that begin of winter, each side have been locked in a grinding battle for land within the east the place the entrance line has barely moved, every military working wanting ammunition and experiencing mounting casualties. Mr. Putin has proven no indicators of easing up or heading to the negotiating desk, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has vowed to recapture all of the territory that Russia grabbed, together with Crimea.

Ukraine is predicted to mount a spring offensive to reclaim Russian-occupied territory, bolstered by new and complex weapons from its NATO allies. Because the warfare enters its second yr, Mr. Putin has discovered himself additional remoted, with a rising checklist of sanctions threatening to decrease Russia’s earnings from the sale of its oil and fuel.

On Monday, he’ll host Moscow’s most essential ally, China’s chief, Xi Jinping, giving Mr. Putin a possibility to reiterate a theme the Kremlin has emphasised for the reason that warfare’s begin: that worldwide assist for Ukraine is proscribed to Western international locations.

China has stated the three-day go to by Mr. Xi gives Beijing a possibility to push Mr. Putin into peace talks and has hinted {that a} name with Mr. Zelensky may comply with. However the US has argued that China just isn’t an trustworthy dealer and is offering Russia with much-needed provides for the warfare, accusations that China has denied and which have helped drive relations between the 2 powers to the bottom in a long time.

For months final yr, Russia poured hundreds of troops into Mariupol, one of the crucial affluent Ukrainian cities earlier than the warfare, and indiscriminately bombarded its condominium buildings. Outnumbered and outgunned, Ukraine’s army held on for weeks, ultimately taking shelter within the metropolis’s metal manufacturing facility. Lastly in Might, Ukrainian forces retreated, leaving the devastated metropolis in Russian management.

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