Putin provokes outrage by visiting occupied Mariupol in Ukraine

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Vladimir Putin has made an unexpected trip to Mariupol, his first visit to the city since it was taken after a lengthy siege at the beginning of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. This visit occurred shortly after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on accusations of Russia’s deportation of numerous Ukrainian children during the conflict.

Putin was given a tour of the city and spoke with residents while being updated on reconstruction efforts.

Mariupol became a global symbol of defiance after outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian forces held out for nearly three months in a steel mill there before Moscow seized control in May.

Earlier in the day, Putin travelled to Crimea, a short distance southwest of Mariupol, to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Ukraine’s annexation of the Black Sea territory.

The visits occurred just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.

Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and then drove around the city’s “memorial sites,” concert hall, and coastline, according to Russian reports, without stating when the visit occurred.

According to reports, Putin also talked with residents of the city’s Nevskyi district.

Speaking to the state RIA agency Sunday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin made clear that Russia was in Mariupol to stay.

He said the government hoped to finish the reconstruction of its blasted downtown by the end of the year.

FSB department building on fire in Russian city Rostov-on-Don

Khusnulin told RIA: “People have started to return. When they saw that reconstruction is underway, people started actively returning.”

When Moscow fully captured the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained out of a prewar population of 450,000.

Many were trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.

Relentless bombardment left rows upon rows of shattered or hollowed-out buildings.

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Mariupol’s plight first came into focus with a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital on March 9 last year, less than two weeks after Russian troops moved into Ukraine.

A week later, about 300 people were reported killed in the bombing of a theater that was serving as the city’s largest bomb shelter.

Evidence obtained by the AP last spring suggested that the real death toll could be closer to 600.

A small group of Ukrainian fighters held out for 83 days in the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in eastern Mariupol before surrendering, their dogged defence tying down Russian forces and coming to symbolize Ukrainian tenacity in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

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