In Wake Of International Criminal Court's Arrest Warrant, Putin Visits Mariupol In First Known Trip To Ukrainian Territory

In a surprise trip, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol over the weekend.

Russian state television showed footage of Putin being shown around the city on Saturday night. The president met rehoused residents and was briefed on reconstruction efforts by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, according to Reuters. 

According to state media, during his tour of the city, Putin visited a residential neighborhood that had been built by the Russian military and started housing new tenants last September.

“Do you live here? Do you like it?” Putin was seen asking residents.

Reuters reported that Mariupol was home to the Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian fighters had held out for weeks in underground tunnels and bunkers before being forced to surrender. 

“The downtown has been badly damaged,” Khusnullin said on state television, according to Reuters. “We want to finish (reconstruction) the center by the end of the year, at least the facade part. The center is very beautiful.”

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Putin’s visit to Mariupol is the first he’s made to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine’s Donbas region since the war started. It’s also the closest he has come to the front lines.

Putin reportedly traveled to the city by helicopter, following a visit to Crimea on the ninth anniversary of its annexation by Russia from Ukraine.

From Mariupol, the Russian leader went to Rostov in southern Russia, where state television on Sunday showed him meeting Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, commander of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

Last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine. The court said that Putin was responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population (children) and unlawful transfer of the population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia. Moscow, however, has repeatedly denied accusations of atrocities during its one-year invasion of Ukraine.

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