Russian Putin makes a surprise trip to occupied Mariupol – KGET 17

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied port city of Mariupol, his first trip to Ukrainian territory illegally annexed by Moscow in September, and showed defiance after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on war-related charges. crime charges.

Putin arrived in Mariupol late Saturday after visiting Crimea, southwest of Mariupol, to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday. He was shown chatting with residents of Mariupol and visiting an art school and children’s center in Sevastopol, Crimea.

Mariupol became a global symbol of resistance after Ukrainian forces were outgunned and outgunned in a steel plant there for nearly three months before Moscow finally took control of it in May. Most of the city was reduced to rubble by Russian shelling.

Putin has not commented on the arrest warrant, which has deepened his international isolation despite the low likelihood that he will stand trial any time soon. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the ICC’s authority, dismissed the move as “legally void”.

The surprise trip also came ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to Moscow this week, which is expected to provide a major diplomatic boost to Putin in his confrontation with the West.

In an essay published Monday in People’s Daily, the newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Putin said: “We are grateful for (China’s) balanced line regarding the events taking place in Ukraine, for understanding their background and real causes.” We welcome China’s willingness to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis.”

In February, China published a position paper in which it calls for an end to the fighting in Ukraine and for the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. It did not address how to resolve Russia’s illegal claim that it annexed four regions of Ukraine.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told “Fox News Sunday” that any call for a ceasefire in Ukraine stemming from the Putin-Xi meeting would be unacceptable to the US because it would only “ratify Russia’s conquest thus far,” and give Moscow “time to reorganize, retrain, retrain and try to plan a renewed offensive.”

Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter, and then drove around the city’s “memorial places”, the concert hall and the coast, Russian media write. State-run channel Rossiya 24 on Sunday showed Putin chatting with locals outside what appeared to be a newly built housing complex and was shown around one of the apartments.

After his trip to Mariupol, Putin met with Russian military leaders and troops at a command post in Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian city about 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) to the east, and spoke with General Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Russia’s military operations. in Ukraine. Peskov said.

Peskov said the trip was unannounced and that Putin intended to “review the operation of the (command) post in its usual mode of operation.”

Speaking to the state agency RIA-Novosti, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Husnulin clearly said that Russia is here to stay in Mariupol. He said that the government hopes to complete the reconstruction of the destroyed city center by the end of the year.

“People started coming back. When they saw that the reconstruction was underway, people began to actively return,” Khusnullin told RIA.

Mihajlo Podoljak, chief of staff of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, ridiculed Putin’s trip to Mariupol.

“The criminal is always drawn to the crime scene,” he said. “While the countries of the civilized world announce the arrest of the ‘war director’ in case of crossing the border, the organizer of the murders of thousands of Mariupol families came to admire the ruins of the city and the mass graves.

When Moscow completely captured the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained, out of a pre-war population of 450,000. Many were trapped without food, water, heat or electricity. The relentless bombing left rows of shattered or hollowed-out buildings.

The plight of Mariupol first came into the focus of the international community after the Russian airstrike on the maternity hospital on March 9, 2022, less than two weeks after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. A week later, around 300 people were killed in the bombing of a theater used as the city’s largest bomb shelter. Evidence obtained by The Associated Press suggests the actual death toll may be closer to 600.

A small group of Ukrainian fighters held out for 83 days at the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in eastern Mariupol before surrendering, their dogged defense pinning down Russian forces and becoming a symbol of Ukrainian resilience in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world declared illegal, and in September moved to officially declare four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine as Russian territory, following referendums that Kiev and the West described as fraudulent.

On Friday, the ICC accused Putin of being personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine. UN investigators also said there was evidence of the forced transfer of “hundreds” of Ukrainian children to Russia. According to the Ukrainian government, over 16,000 children have been deported to territories under Russian control or to Russia itself, many of them from Mariupol.

Although Kiev welcomed the move by the ICC, the chances of Putin facing trial are slim because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its citizens.

Ukrainian officials reported on Sunday that at least three civilians had been killed and 19 wounded in Russian shelling in the past 24 hours. They were killed in the eastern region of Donetsk, amid fierce fighting for control of the city of Bakhmut, Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Ukrainian TV.

Kharkiv Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said in a Telegram update that the 51-year-old woman was “fighting for her life” after being hit by shrapnel as Russian troops fired on the border town of Dvorichna.

Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukraine’s president, said Ukrainian troops were holding a line near Bakhmut, a key target of a long, sustained Russian offensive, adding that the enemy’s plan to capture the city was “now collapsing.”

A spokesman for eastern Ukrainian forces said Russian troops were “tactically unable to complete” Bakhmut’s capture.

“Yes, there is very active fighting, (the Russians) continue to carry out several dozens of attacks by inertia, but they are suffering huge losses,” Serhiy Cherevati said on Ukrainian TV, adding that the Ukrainian defense “is bleeding the enemy, breaking his fighting spirit.”

Taking Bakhmut would give the Kremlin a battlefield victory after months of setbacks and could pave the way for Russia to threaten other Ukrainian strongholds in the region, including Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.

Russian forces shelled a house in Bilozerka, a suburb west of the southern city of Kherson, and a woman who was pulled from the rubble was hospitalized, according to the Kherson regional military administration, Telegram writes.


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