Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a defiant visit to Mariupol, hailing the “reconstruction” work of the city it bombarded from its former self, and responded on Sunday in his first major appearance since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him. Arrest.
The ICC acted on Russia’s deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children during the conflict to mainland Russia or occupied territories.
Russia besieged Mariupol at the start of its offensive last year, destroying steel mills in Azovstal, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the city.
According to the state news agency TASS on Sunday, Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter on Saturday and toured the city.
But the visit has been met with skepticism amid allegations that Putin has used a body double on his recent trips and media appearances to hide his ill health.
The Kremlin claimed that Putin met with the grateful citizens of Mariupol and discussed reconstruction work in the city
The dictator was also seen driving his car through the streets of the occupied Ukrainian territories
He visited several sites and talked with the people, and a report was presented on the city’s reconstruction work.
But it is unclear who the people pictured are and whether they are real Ukrainian citizens – or when the visit actually took place.
Whatever the timing of the visit, the release of the clips appears to have been a brazen attempt to antagonize the West after the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court this week – and the ninth anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea.
The Kremlin claimed to have spoken with grateful Ukrainians, despite launching a months-long campaign of continuous bombing on the city, destroying nearly the entire city.
Mariupol was the scene of a major siege earlier in the conflict as soldiers, workers and citizens hid for three months at the Azov steelworks in a network of underground tunnels.
Putin’s stop in Mariupol follows his surprise visit to Crimea on Saturday to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s annexation.
This is the first time that Putin is known to have entered Ukrainian territory that his forces have occupied since the invasion last February.
The impudent move is a new look for Putin, who has so far avoided getting close to the front lines.
Only Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is said to have visited Donbass before Putin.
The 70-year-old arrived by helicopter after visiting Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Putin drove through the streets of Mariupol while Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khosnullin pointed out repair work by the Russians in footage from the defense ministry-owned Zvezda channel.
Russian state television showed him visiting the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, accompanied by the local Moscow-appointed governor Mikhail Razvogayev.
Razovugayev said on the Telegram messaging app that Putin was expected to take part in the opening of an art school for children via a video link.
But Vladimir Vladimirovich came up with his own. Himself. behind the wheel. Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the Sevastopol people.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a referendum, which was not recognized by Kiev or the international community.
Putin visited 200-seat theater complex while in Mariupol, video showings
The veracity of the Kremlin’s claims has been called into question given that Mariupol was one of the cities hardest hit in Putin’s illegal invasion.
The fighting is currently concentrated in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine
Putin’s surprise visit to Crimea was his first to the peninsula since he sent troops into Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, said he aimed to recover Crimea, though Moscow refused to include it in potential peace talks.
Putin’s visit comes after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him on Friday for the “deportation” of Ukrainian children.
The Hague-based court said it had issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova Belova, 38, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, on similar charges.
Kiev says more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the conflict began in February 2022, many of them placed in institutions and foster homes.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, told AFP that Putin was now responsible for arrest if he set foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states.
The 70-year-old Russian leader has not commented publicly on the memo, but the Kremlin has dismissed its validity as “invalid” because Russia has not recognized 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 described as heralding a new era in relations.
China, a major ally of Russia, has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, urging Moscow and Kiev to start negotiations.
But Western leaders have repeatedly criticized Beijing for failing to condemn the Russian offensive, accusing it of providing Moscow with diplomatic cover for its campaign.
Putin hopes that China will grant him military and economic aid for his blitzkrieg economy, which has been damaged by sanctions and war.
The PR stunt also followed allegations from his supporters that Putin, unlike Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has been slow to visit the war zone.
Mariupol is currently far from the front line, although it has been hit by car bombs recently.
Putin was filmed driving through the streets in the long clip, but only the back of his head was visible, prompting speculation that he may have been a body double.
“You see, we’ve repaired the roads to some extent,” Khosnowlin said, amid allegations that much of the taxpayer’s money destined for Mariupol has been stolen.
Putin replied: “Good things.”
However, it was hard to see anything.
The Deputy Prime Minister said: “On your left you will see a good new traffic light and a park. We have started public transport.
Pro-Kremlin activists staged protests in front of the US Embassy in Moscow and other Western embassies on Saturday
110 buses are running, and if everything is in order, we want to start the first trams by summer.
“Tram lines are being repaired and we have trams.”
In a separate segment, he is seen talking to the townspeople, asking them if they like the buildings the Russians claim they built for them. Only a side view of the commander was visible.
“The president spoke to residents of the Nevsky District and visited an apartment at the invitation of a family living there,” the state-run Tass news agency reported.
The Kremlin said the deputy prime minister briefed Putin on “the creation of new residential areas, social and educational facilities, utility infrastructure, and medical centers.”
One of the leading political analysts, Sergei Markov, admitted that there are suspicions that Putin is in fact – and not a duplicitous – in Mariupol.
Markov insisted the visit was with Putin, and said the visit was arranged at a low level with little visible security in order to “fool NATO intelligence”.
But he admitted that “the Western media do not believe that Putin was in Mariupol, because in the short video Putin is seen only from behind, and he says almost nothing. Well, let them not believe. We also do not believe the Western media.”
Rumor has it that on some recent visits one of the spouses pretended to be Putin.
Similar footage of Putin driving a Mercedes over the bombed Kerch Bridge linking Crimea to Russia has also been widely viewed.
Separately, the dictator is seen in Russia’s military control room in Rostov-on-Don with two of his top commanders, General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, and General Sergei ‘Armageddon’ Surovikin, deputy commander.
The footage was apparently designed to show Putin – who has been the subject of ill health rumours – in charge of unified leadership.
A fit dictator went upstairs and appeared to walk normally, while earlier footage in Sevastopol, Crimea showed him walking awkwardly.
Earlier Putin stripped Surovkin of the war command and handed it over to Gerasimov.
“The head of state listened to reports from Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and a number of military leaders,” said a statement from the Kremlin.
He examined the coast of Mariupol in the area of \u200b\u200bthe yacht club, the theater building, [and] Unforgettable places in the city ‘, reported Interfax.
Putin previously visited the Rostov command center, which is not in the war zone.
In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two sides had agreed to extend an agreement that would allow Ukraine, a major grain exporter, to resume exports after Russian warships closed its Black Sea ports.
Grain exports from Ukraine
But there was disagreement about the terms.
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended by 120 days, but a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Moscow had agreed to extend it by 60 days.
The deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 allowed safe passage for exports, and was already extended by 120 days in November.
Fighting is now concentrated in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, particularly the city of Bakhmut.
The region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, who accused Moscow of using cluster bombs in the attack, said Russian strikes hit the nearby city of Kramatorsk on Saturday, killing two people and wounding 10.
AFP journalists in Kramatorsk heard about 10 explosions going off almost simultaneously just before 4:00 pm local time (1400 GMT) and saw smoke billowing over a park in the southern part of the city.
They saw a woman who died at the scene of her injuries.
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