Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced visit to the coastal city of Mariupol on Sunday, marking the first time he has visited a captured Ukrainian city since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Mariupol was heavily damaged by Russian artillery fire during the invasion, and Putin was shown driving around the city at night while Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin explained the rebuilding efforts that Russian forces are undertaking.
Putin’s regime has touted the rebuilding efforts in Mariupol as evidence of its claim to be liberating Ukrainians from fascist leaders. However, Mariupol saw some of the most intense fighting of the early months of Russia’s invasion, with Ukrainian forces holding out in a steel factory after Russian forces had all but taken the city. Eventually, Ukraine’s soldiers surrendered in May.
Putin’s visit to Mariupol comes just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him over the abduction of Ukrainian children away from their families last week. Despite the warrant, it is unlikely to have much impact on Putin or Russia, given the limited jurisdiction of the ICC. Moscow immediately dismissed the move by the ICC.
Later in the week, Putin is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow, with China attempting to negotiate peace terms between Russia and Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed skepticism about China’s role in peacemaking but has said he is open to dialogue. Xi is expected to have a phone call with Zelenskyy after his visit to Moscow, which would be the first personal interaction for the pair since before Putin’s invasion.
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