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Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied port city MariupolIn a show of defiance after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges, Moscow made his first trip to Ukrainian territory illegally annexed in September.

Putin arrived in Mariupol late Saturday after visiting Crimea, southwest of Mariupol, to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday. He was seen chatting with residents of Mariupol and visiting an art school and a children’s center in Sevastopol, Crimea.

Mariupol became a worldwide symbol of resistance after Guns and Outmen Ukrainian forces had blocked a steel mill there About three months ago Moscow eventually took control In May. Much of the city was reduced to rubble by Russian shelling.

Former National Security Adviser Lt. General HR McMaster “Face the Nation”“Called Putin’s visit a “moment of clarity,” notes the ICC warrant.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Mariupol in Russian-controlled Ukraine in this still image taken from Handout Video released on March 19, 2023.

Kremlin.ru/handout via REUTERS

“Look at his blatant cynicism with going to Sevastopol, which he illegally annexed in 2014, and then to Mariupol, going there at night,” McMaster said. “You know, visited the sites – a few sites – you know, it didn’t roar as the Russian military killed innocent people in Mariupol.”

Putin has not commented on the arrest warrant, which has deepened his international isolation even though he is unlikely to face trial anytime soon. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the ICC’s authority, rejected the move as “legally null and void.”

The surprise visit also comes ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to Moscow this week, which is expected to give Putin a major diplomatic boost in his conflict with the West.

McMaster said “you’re going to see more evidence of Chinese support for Russia in the coming days and weeks”.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told “Fox News Sunday” that any call for a ceasefire in Ukraine coming out of the Putin-Xi meeting would be unacceptable to the US because it would only “endorse Russia’s victory to date”. And give Moscow time to “reform, retrain, re-man and try to plan a new offensive.”

Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and then drove around the city’s “memorials”, concert halls and coastline, Russian news reports said. Putin was shown chatting with locals on Sunday on the state’s Rossiya 24 channel in what looked like a newly built residential complex and was shown around an apartment.

After visiting Mariupol, Putin met with Russian military leaders and soldiers at a command post in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, about 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) east, and held talks with General Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Russian military operations in Ukraine, Peskov. said

Peskov said the trip was unannounced and that Putin wanted to “inspect the operation of the (command) post in his normal mode.”

Speaking to the state-run RIA-Novosti agency, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin made it clear that Russia was here to stay in Mariupol. He said the government hopes to finish rebuilding the blasted city by the end of the year.

“People started coming back. When they saw that the reconstruction work was going on, people started actively coming back,” Khusnulin told RIA.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s chief of staff Mykhailo Podoliak slammed Putin’s visit to Mariupol.

“Criminals are always drawn to crime scenes,” he said. “While the nations of the civilized world are announcing the arrest of the ‘war director’ for border crossings, thousands of Mariupol families have come to admire the ruins and mass graves of the organizers of the murder.”

When Moscow completely captured the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained, out of a pre-war population of 450,000. Many were stranded without food, water, heat or electricity. Rows of buildings left shattered or hollowed out by relentless bombardment.

The plight of Mariupol first came to international attention with a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital on March 9, 2022, less than two weeks after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. A week later, around 300 people were reported killed in a bombing of a theater used as the city’s largest bomb shelter. Evidence obtained by The Associated Press suggests the actual death toll may be closer to 600.

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