Vladimir Putin visits occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Russian media report | world news

Vladimir Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to Russian media.

The president made what state media described as a “working trip” to the port city, which he annexed in September last year after Russia invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Putin, who arrived by helicopter, toured several parts of the city, making stops and talking to locals, according to Russian news agency TASS, citing the Kremlin.

It would be his first trip to Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory since its invasion last year.

The visit follows the widely condemned annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions in September.

The visit also comes as Mr Putin visited Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Mr Putin, right, and Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, during his visit to Crimea on Saturday

Most of the world views Russia’s annexations as illegal, while Ukraine has said it will fight to reclaim the areas.

Mariupola strategically important port city located in Donetsk Oblast and bordering the Sea of ​​Azov, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting at the start of the war.

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Ukrainian forces dug into the city’s Azovstal steelworks for a last-ditch defence, which ended in surrender in May after a three-month siege of the facility by Russia.

A view shows the Azovstal steel plant destroyed during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Mariupol, Russian-controlled Ukraine, November 16, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko
Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol

Over 2,500 buildings were damaged in the siege of Mariupol – almost half of everything in the city.

Sky News reported in February how Russia had remodeled the city in its own image since its capture, notably by transforming the ruined steelworks, once one of the largest metallurgical factories in Europe, into a “technological and ecological park”.

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Mariupol: the new model city of Russia

Read our feature from April 2022: How the Azovstal Steel Mill became the last outpost of the brutal battle for Mariupol

Along with the visit, Russian media reported that Mr Putin had met with the top command of his military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

The meeting is said to have taken place at the Rostov-on-Don command post in southern Russia, near the Ukrainian border, according to TASS.

On Saturday, the Russian president took a 1,132-mile plane trip from Moscow to Sevastopol – Crimea’s largest city – a day after the International Criminal Court’s ruling an arrest warrant against him.

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Vladimir Putin visits Crimea

The court said he was responsible for the kidnapping of hundreds of Ukrainian children since Russia began a full invasion of the country in February last year.

In Crimea, he was welcomed by Mikhail Razvozhayev – the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol – before visiting an art school and a center for children.

Mr Putin’s remarks were not carried by state media, but as recently as Friday he was talking about the importance of retaining Crimea.

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“Obviously, security issues are now a priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said.

“We will do whatever is necessary to repel any threat.”

Mr Putin has not publicly commented on the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant, but his spokesman called it “null and void” on Friday.

Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the tribunal, which is based in The Hague.

It also does not extradite its citizens to face justice in court, meaning Mr Putin is unlikely to ever face trial there.


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