HANDOUT / AFP
Vladimir Putin visited Crimea on March 18, 2023, then made a surprise visit to Mariupol, a Ukrainian city shelled by the Russian army and now occupied.
UKRAINE – Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol, a Ukrainian city controlled by Russia and devastated by the bombardments, his first visit to a conquered zone since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the Kremlin reported this Sunday March 19, after the issuance of an international arrest warrant against the Russian President.
The Russian leader went to Mariupol by helicopter and toured the city, driving a car, the Kremlin press service said on Sunday, quoted by Russian news agencies.
Russian state TV clip of Putin’s visit to Mariupol, with “local residents” thanking him for coming. Entire streets…
— Matthew Luxmoore (@mjluxmoore)
“Russian State TV clip of Putin’s visit to Mariupol, with ‘local residents’ thanking him for coming. Entire streets are cleared in Moscow as he passes, but Russian state television wants Russians to believe this outpouring of gratitude is spontaneous,” writes a journalist from Wall street journal by sharing images of the Russian President in Mariupol.
BREAKING: Vladimir Putin visits the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Russian state media reports.…
— Sky News (@SkyNews)
According to images broadcast by Russian public television, the trip took place at night, Vladimir Putin being introduced in particular to the night lighting of the streets of Mariupol and speaking with residents. “ We pray for you »assured Vladimir Putin to one of the inhabitants, saying that the city was “ a little piece of paradise ».
He visited a reconstructed local musical theater and followed the presentation of a report on the reconstruction works of this devastated city, according to the Kremlin. This is his first trip to this Ukrainian port city besieged for months by Russian forces before falling in May 2022.
Poutine « criminel international » for Ukraine
This surprise visit to Mariupol is above all the first trip of the master of the Kremlin to the Donbass, in the conquered zone, since the start of the Russian offensive on February 24, 2022, which earned Moscow a series of severe international sanctions.
The Ukrainian authorities in Mariupol castigated the visit of the “ criminel international » by night “probably so as not to see the city killed by its ”liberation” in the light of day”. A reference to the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which charges him with the war crime of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children. More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the invasion on February 24, 2022, according to kyiv, and many have been placed in institutions and foster homes.
The Court, which sits in The Hague, also tried to verify whether the bombing and siege of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, could constitute a crime against humanity. She concluded that she lacked elements to reach such a conclusion, having not had access to the Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located. The Kremlin ruled ” null and void “ the ICC arrest warrant, which Moscow does not recognize as having jurisdiction.
According to the Kremlin, before going to Mariupol, Putin also held a meeting in Rostov, Russia, with Russian military officials, including Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Putin first visited Crimea
He had previously traveled to Crimea on Saturday for the 9th anniversary of the annexation of this Ukrainian peninsula by Russia, also targeted by international sanctions for this reason. It was his first visit to Crimea since 2021. Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum not recognized by kyiv and the international community.
Arrived in Sevastopol, home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Vladimir Putin notably attended on Saturday the inauguration ceremony of a school of arts for children in the company of the local governor, Mikhail Razvojayev, according to the images broadcast by the public television channel Rossia-1.
This city being located only about 240 km from Kherson, a southern Ukrainian city retaken by the army of Kiev in November after the withdrawal of Russian forces, this displacement of Vladimir Putin was also the first carried out in a place so close. from the front line.
“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In the good sense of that word”wrote on Telegram Mikhail Razvojayev. “But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Driving. Because on a historic day like today, he is always with Sevastopol and its people”said Mikhail Razvojayev. “Our country has an incredible leader! »he enthused.
If Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that he intended to take back Crimea – ” our earth “ – by arms, Moscow continues to hammer that the “Crimea is Russian”refusing to make it the subject of possible peace negotiations.
See also on Le Huffpost :