Putin pays surprise visit to occupied Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin made a surprise visit to Mariupol to the Ukrainian city that has been the scene of one of the bloodiest battles since Russia’s invasion last year, and the most close that the Russian leader was from the front lines in the east.
Mr Putin flew in a helicopter from Crimea and then visited Mariupol in eastern Donetsk province, according to the state-run Tass newspaper on Sunday.
It was Mr Putin’s second unannounced trip to Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine over the weekend, and the closest the Russian leader has been to the front lines over the course of the weekend. past year. His Saturday trip to Crimea was timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula. The two high-profile visits were also gestures of defiance by the Kremlin less than 48 hours after an international court issued an arrest warrant for him.
For months last year, Russia sent thousands of troops to Mariupol, home to Europe’s largest steelworks, and indiscriminately shelled the city, which was once home to nearly half a million people. Outnumbered and with increasingly unsophisticated weaponry, the Ukrainian army hung on, eventually taking refuge in the city’s steelworks. Eventually, Ukrainian forces withdrew, leaving the devastated city under Russian control.
The report by state media Tass called the surprise stop a “work trip” for Mr Putin to review construction and restoration work in the city.