Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the Ukrainian-held city of Mariupol on his first trip since an arrest warrant was issued.
Russian state news agencies reported today that he was in the city, which has become a global symbol of resistance after Ukrainian troops with overwhelming and unmanned forces held out for nearly three months at a steel mill there.
It was eventually taken over by the Kremlin in May.
Yesterday, Putin traveled to Crimea, a short distance southwest of Mariupol, to mark the ninth anniversary of Ukraine’s annexation of the Black Sea Peninsula.
The visits came days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader, accusing him of war crimes.
Mr. Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter, and then himself drove around the “memorial sites”, the concert hall and the city’s waterfront.
They said Mr Putin also met with residents of the city’s Nevsky district.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin made it clear that Russia will remain in Mariupol.
He said the government hopes to complete the reconstruction of the damaged city center by the end of the year.
He said: “People have started to come back. When they saw that reconstruction was underway, people actively returned.”
When Moscow completely conquered the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained from a pre-war population of 450,000. Many were trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.
Relentless bombardment left rows and rows of buildings destroyed or hollowed out.
Mariupol’s plight was first highlighted by a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in March last year, less than two weeks after Kremlin troops invaded Ukraine.
A week later, about 300 people were reportedly killed in a bombing of a theater that served as the city’s largest bomb shelter.
Evidence obtained by the AP last spring suggested the true death toll could be closer to 600.
A small group of Ukrainian fighters held out for 83 days in the sprawling Azovstal Steel Works east of Mariupol before surrendering. Their tenacious defenses tied down Russian forces and became a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity in the face of Moscow’s aggression.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move most of the world denounced as illegal, and last September began officially claiming four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine as Russian territory, following referendums involving Kyiv and the called the west a sham.
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/03/19/putin-defies-arrest-warrant-for-war-crimes-and-visits-mariupol-18466417/ Putin defies arrest warrant for war crimes and visits Mariupol