Defiant Putin visits occupied Mariupol, symbol of Ukrainian resistance

(CNN) Vladimir put it in He paid a surprise visit to Russian-occupied Mariupol, a city his forces left in ruins when they captured it last year.

The Russian president’s first visit to occupied Ukrainian territory is clearly a challenge, and it comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him.

Putin was taken there Mariupol It showed footage released by the Russian authorities by helicopter and toured the city’s surroundings in a car.

The Russian president is shown meeting the residents, who look astonished. “We need to start getting to know each other better,” Putin tells one man.

But the Kremlin statement did not do that When the visit took place, though, he visited Crimea on Saturday to celebrate the ninth anniversary of its annexation.

All of the released footage of Putin’s visit was released after dark, a possible way for the authorities to hide the damage.

News of the visit comes after the International Criminal Court on Friday issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova Belova over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. Putin has not yet commented on the memo.

The visit is likely to be seen as particularly provocative for Ukrainians, as Mariupol has long been a symbol of resistance that has seen some of the fiercest fighting since Russia launched its invasion last year.

The Kremlin said that during the trip, Putin examined the coast of Mariupol and visited a yacht club and a theater building.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khosnullin, who accompanied him, spoke in detail with Putin about the “ongoing construction and restoration work” in the city.

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In the video, Khosnulin told Putin: “There is a plan to rebuild it by the end of the third year. We plan for it to be a fully functional airport capable of making flights to all cities of Russia and abroad.”

The Kremlin added that Putin held a meeting at the command center of the special military operation – describing Russia for its invasion – in Rostov-on-Don.

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko criticized the visit, calling Putin a “war criminal” on Sunday, questioning the timing of his visit to Mariupol.

Wondering about his timing, he asked in Telegram: “Did the war criminal come to see with his own eyes the genocide he committed in Mariupol? Why at night? Is he afraid?”

MariupolIt is a port city on the Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov, located in the Ukrainian Donetsk Oblast and has been under direct Russian control since May 2022.

there was Mariupol That the Russian forces carried out some of the worst blows, including an attack Attack on the maternity ward last March and Theater bombing Forcing hundreds of civilians to seek refuge.

Mariupol has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance during weeks of relentless Russian attacks last year. Famously, even when most of the city fell, its defenders at the Azovstal steelworks held out for weeks before the stronghold finally fell.

Defense analysts told CNN earlier that Russian forces had tried to flatten Mariupol to make the city “easier to hold”.

Of the 450,000 people who lived in the city before the war, more than a third actually did Leave.

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CNN’s Duarte Mendonca and Costan Nechiporenko contributed reporting.

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