Putin on a surprise visit to Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol over the weekend, inspecting reconstruction work and visiting the home of at least one local resident, the Kremlin said in a statement on Sunday.

Putin arrived Saturday evening in the port city under Russian control since May and illegally annexed by Moscow in September.

“As befits a thief, Putin traveled to Ukrainian Mariupol, under cover of night,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry tweeted. “First, it’s safer. Also, the darkness allows him to showcase what he wants to show, and keeps the city completely destroyed by his army and his few surviving inhabitants out of sight. prying.”

Putin arrived by helicopter and then drove through the city to inspect reconstruction work in several neighborhoods, the statement said. It was Putin’s second trip to the newly annexed territories, this time after visiting Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s illegal takeover of the Black Sea peninsula.

The news comes less than two days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, an official in its office responsible for children’s rights. The court cited their alleged involvement in the illegal deportation of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that as the civilized world announced the arrest warrants, “the killer of thousands of Mariupol families came to admire the ruins” of the city and its graves.

“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime,” tweeted Pololyak. “Cynicism and lack of remorse.”


►Putin, speaking on state TV, said he only launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 because Russia’s military and economy were not strong enough prepared when Moscow invaded Crimea in 2014.

►A shortage of explosives in European Union countries, the result of high demand during the war, is limiting the bloc’s ability to supply Ukraine with the ammunition it has requested, the Financial Times reported. London.

►The Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in Moscow has replaced a vice-rector after an exhibition featuring a Ukrainian flag. The exhibition, held last month, was dedicated to national communities and included a section on Ukrainian culture.

►Putin signed two bills in recent days that dramatically increase fines and prison terms for disparaging Russian forces in Ukraine – and for selling Russian weapons to Ukraine or its supporters.

►The leader of the Wagner Group’s Russian mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigohzin, says Ukrainian forces are preparing to launch counter-offensives in five directions in mid-April. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War says Prigohzin urged Russian forces to prepare by preserving ammunition and equipment.

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Putin ready to welcome his “good old friend” Xi

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his appreciation for China’s attempts to mediate on the eve of welcoming his “good old friend” Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader who will visit Moscow from Monday.

“We are grateful for (China’s) balanced line regarding the events unfolding in Ukraine, for understanding their background and true causes,” Putin said in an article the Kremlin said was written for a newspaper. Chinese, according to Reuters. “We welcome China’s willingness to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis.”

China and Russia have a common goal of wanting to reduce US global influence, and a few weeks before the start of the war last year, they committed to a “limitless” partnership.

The Biden administration has warned Beijing not to supply the Kremlin with weapons for use in Ukraine. China professes neutrality in the conflict while condemning Western sanctions and the role of the United States in helping Ukraine.

Ukraine pushes for accelerated EU membership

A Ukrainian official will discuss her country’s progress towards meeting the seven criteria for European Union membership at a meeting of European affairs ministers on Monday, as Ukraine struggles to meet a membership deadline two years, which she imposed on herself but unlikely.

Olha Stefanishyna, deputy prime minister for European integration, said Kyiv will have completed most of the benchmarks before a progress report is likely to be presented in May. Ukraine’s parliament will have passed a law fulfilling the crucial criteria for media reform by then, she said.

“The concept of law enforcement reform has been prepared and must be approved by the President’s decision,” she added, telling European Pravda “we are close (for) the fight against corruption, law enforcement and justice”.

The government plans to tackle the problem of oligarch influence through anti-monopoly and anti-corruption measures – without establishing a controversial “registry of oligarchs”, she said.

“In times of war, naming and shaming, that is, naming certain people who are subject to this law, is not a priority,” she said.

Poland and some of Ukraine’s other neighbors strongly support a speedy process for Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron said last year it could take decades.

Russia faces heavy losses of soldiers and equipment almost daily

Ukraine’s Defense Forces claimed to have “killed” more than 700 Russian troops in a single day on Saturday, also destroying 21 tanks and 25 other armored fighting vehicles. On Sunday, Ukraine reported that Russia had carried out more than a dozen airstrikes of various types, hitting a residential building in Vasylivsky district and civilian infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and other areas.

“There are dead and injured, high-rise buildings, private residential buildings and schools have been damaged,” the Ukrainian military said, warning that the threat of probability of strikes throughout Ukraine “remains high”.

Mariupol remains the symbol of Ukrainian resistance

The Mariupol visited by Putin bears little resemblance to the city of 13 months ago. Mariupol, on the Sea of ​​Azov in the bitterly disputed region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, was left in ruins by relentless Russian bombardment in the first weeks of the war.

A Russian airstrike slammed into a maternity ward less than two weeks after Russian troops overran its neighbor, and a week later around 300 people were reportedly killed in the bombardment of a theater serving as the city’s largest bomb shelter. the city. Evidence suggests the actual death toll could have been closer to 600.

The fierce battle for the city finally came to an end when a small group of Ukrainian fighters surrendered after resisting for 83 days in the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in eastern Mariupol. Their determination symbolizes Ukrainian tenacity in the face of aggression from Moscow.

The city, once home to more than 430,000 people, has been under direct Russian control since May.

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Russian official: Mariupol annexation is permanent

Speaking to state news agency RIA on Sunday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin made it clear that Russia is in Mariupol to stay. He said the government hoped to complete the reconstruction of its devastated city center by the end of the year.

“People started coming back. When they saw that the reconstruction was underway, people started to actively come back,” Khusnulin told RIA.

Contribute: The Associated Press

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