Defiant Putin visits occupied Mariupol, symbol of Ukrainian resistance
Vladimir Putin visited Russian-occupied Mariupol in a seemingly defiant move reported by the Kremlin just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him.
Putin was flown to Mariupol by helicopter and toured parts of the city by car, footage released by Russian authorities showed.
The Russian president is shown meeting with seemingly surprised locals. Putin tells a man ‘we have to start getting to know each other better’.
A statement from the Kremlin did not say when the visit took place.
News of the visit comes after the ICC on Friday issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova over an alleged plan to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
The visit is likely to be seen as particularly provocative for Ukrainians, as Mariupol has long been a symbol of resistance which has seen some of the fiercest fighting since Russia launched its invasion last year.
During the trip, the Kremlin said Putin also surveyed Mariupol’s coastline, visiting a yacht club and a theater.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who was accompanying him, spoke in detail to Putin about the “ongoing construction and restoration work” in the city.
The Kremlin added that Putin held a meeting at the special military operation command post in Rostov-on-Don.
Putin heard reports from Chief of the General Staff – First Deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov, and a number of military leaders, the statement continued.
Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, is located in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast and has been under direct Russian control since May 2022.
It was in Mariupol that Russian forces have carried out some of their most notorious strikes, including an attack on a maternity hospital last March and the bombing of a theater that forced hundreds of civilians to take refuge.
Mariupol became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance during weeks of relentless Russian attacks last year. Famously, even when most of the city had fallen, its defenders held off the Azovstal Ironworks for weeks before the fortress finally fell.
Defense analysts previously told CNN that Russian forces attempted to flatten Mariupol to make the city “easier to control.”
Of the 450,000 people who lived in the city before the war, more than a third have already left.