The Russian President, Vladimir Putinmade a surprise visit to the Ukrainian city of Mariupoldevastated by bombings, on its first trip to the occupied zone since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Putin arrived by helicopter in Mariupol, Donbass, and toured the city driving a vehicle himself, the Kremlin said this Sunday, 19. According to images broadcast by Russian state television, the trip took place on the night of this Saturday, 18. released images, it is possible to see the Russian president in the streets, talking to residents. “We pray for you”, says one resident, adding that the city is “a little paradise”. Putin also visited the newly rebuilt local Philharmonic and received a briefing on the reconstruction work in Mariupol, the Kremlin press office said.
This was his first visit to the port city in southeastern Ukraine, devastated after months of siege by Russian forces, which took control in May 2022. According to the Kremlin, the Russian president also had a meeting with Russian army officers in Rostov do Don (southern Russia), close to the Ukrainian border. The Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, participated in the meeting. The Russian president arrived in Mariupol after visiting Crimea on Saturday, the 18th, on the anniversary of Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
pending arrest warrant
The Russian president made these trips after the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, ordered his arrest for the deportation of children in areas of Ukraine occupied by the Russia. Kiev claims that more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the start of the conflict. Russia, which is not a member of the ICC, considered this order “null and void”. In Sevastopol, the base port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Putin participated in the inauguration of a children’s art school, together with the local governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, according to images broadcast by public television Rossiya-1.
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In the good sense of the word,” wrote Razvozhayev on Telegram. The visit did not mean a break in military operations in eastern Ukraine, in which at least two people were killed in Russian bombings, according to Ukrainian sources. Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum unrecognized by Kiev or the international community. In January, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea and his refusal to include it as a concession in any peace talks. Moscow insists, however, that “Crimea is Russian”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Russia on Monday, the 20th for a visit in which several agreements will be signed, marking, according to the Kremlin, the beginning of a “new era” in relations between the two allied countries. Scheduled to end on Wednesday, the 22nd, Xi’s visit will take place almost 13 months after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, which isolated Moscow, to a large extent, internationally. Western governments hope that Xi will use his visit to Moscow to ask his “old friend” Vladimir Putin to end the conflict. China has not condemned the military offensive and has tried to present itself as a neutral player in the dispute. His stance has been criticized by Western leaders, who believe the Asian power is providing diplomatic cover for Moscow. The United States even accused China of considering handing over weapons to Russia, which Beijing categorically denied. During the visit, Xi and Putin will discuss military and technical cooperation, according to the Kremlin.
*With information from AFP
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