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Putin makes surprise trip to Russian-occupied Mariupol in wake of ICC warrant

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sputnik | Reuters

A day after being accused of struggle crimes by the Worldwide Felony Courtroom, President Vladimir Putin made a shock go to to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian metropolis of Mariupol, scene of a number of the worst devastation of his year-old invasion.

State tv confirmed prolonged footage of Putin being proven across the metropolis on Saturday evening, assembly rehoused residents and being briefed on reconstruction efforts by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin.

The port metropolis of Mariupol grew to become identified all over the world as a byword for demise and destruction as a lot of it was diminished to ruins within the first months of the struggle, finally falling to Russian forces in Could.

Tons of have been killed within the bombing of a theatre the place households with kids have been sheltering. The Group for Safety and Cooperation and Europe (OSCE) mentioned Russia’s early bombing of a maternity hospital there was a struggle crime. Moscow denied that and has mentioned because it invaded on Feb. 24 final 12 months that it doesn’t goal civilians.

Putin’s go to had the air of a gesture of defiance after the Worldwide Felony Courtroom issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday, accusing him of the struggle crime of deporting a whole bunch of kids from Ukraine.

He has not publicly commented on the transfer, however his spokesman mentioned it was legally “null and void” and that Russia discovered the very questions raised by the ICC to be “outrageous and unacceptable”.

The go to to Mariupol was the primary that Putin has made to the Russian-occupied elements of Ukraine’s Donbas area because the struggle began, and the closest he has come to the entrance traces.

Whereas Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made numerous journeys to the battlefield to spice up the morale of his troops and speak technique, Putin has largely remained contained in the Kremlin whereas working what Russia calls its “particular army operation” in Ukraine.

Kyiv and its allies say the invasion is an imperialistic land seize that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of millions of individuals in Ukraine.

‘Piece of heaven’

Putin’s journey to Mariupol came about in darkness. State TV confirmed him on the wheel of a automobile, driving by way of the town within the firm of his deputy prime minister, Khusnullin, and being briefed intimately on the rebuilding of housing, bridges, hospitals, transport routes and a live performance corridor.

State media mentioned he visited a brand new residential neighbourhood that had been constructed by Russian army with the primary folks shifting in final September.

“Do you reside right here? Do you prefer it?” Putin was proven asking residents.

“Very a lot. It is somewhat piece of heaven that we’ve got right here now,” a lady replied, clasping her fingers and thanking Putin for “the victory”.

Residents have been “actively” returning, Khusnullin advised Putin. Mariupol had a inhabitants of half one million folks earlier than the struggle and was house to the Azovstal metal plant, one in every of Europe’s largest, the place Ukrainian fighters held out for weeks in underground tunnels and bunkers earlier than being compelled to give up.

“The downtown has been badly broken,” Khusnullin mentioned. “We wish to end (reconstruction) of the centre by the top of the 12 months, a minimum of the facade half. The centre may be very stunning.”

There was no instant response to the go to from the Ukrainian authorities.

Mariupol is within the Donetsk area, one in every of 4 largely Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine that Putin moved in September to annex in an motion rejected as unlawful by most international locations on the United Nations Common Meeting.

Putin travelled there by helicopter after a go to to Crimea on the ninth anniversary of its annexation by Russia from Ukraine.

From Mariupol, he went to Rostov in southern Russia, the place state TV on Sunday confirmed him assembly Chief of the Common Employees Valery Gerasimov, commander of Russia’s struggle effort in Ukraine.