The Kremlin has reported that President Vladimir Putin made a surprise trip to Mariupol. This marks his first visit to the Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region since the beginning of the war.
The visit comes after Putin paid an unannounced visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine – and just two days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader.
The devastated port city of Mariupol, in Ukraine, was taken over by Moscow last year following a protracted siege, and the banished city council of Mariupol has blasted Vladimir Putin’s reported visit there.
“The international criminal Putin visited occupied Mariupol. He watched the ‘rebuilding of the city’… at night. Probably in order not to see the city, killed by his ‘liberation’, in the light of day,” the city council said on its Telegram account.
Some sources claim that President Vladimir Putin’s reported visit to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol is a “provocation” meant to anger both the international community and Ukraine because it occurs only two days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president.
‘Actively’ returning to Mariupol
Residents of the war-torn city of Mariupol are “actively” returning, according to Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who also joined Putin on his tour, as reported by Russian press agencies.
The Azovstal steel plant, one of Europe’s largest and the scene of a lengthy siege last year, is situated in Mariupol, which had a population of half a million before the conflict.
“The downtown has been badly damaged,” Khusnullin said. “We want to finish (reconstruction) of the centre by the end of the year, at least the facade part. The centre is very beautiful.”
Russian media stated that Putin paid a family a visit in Mariupol’s Nevsky district. The Russian military built the new residential neighborhood, and the first inhabitants moved in last September.
The visit did not receive an immediate reaction from Kyiv.