Vladimir Putin made his first trip to Ukraine, occupying territory since the start of the war. He visited the city of Mariupol, in the southeast.
According to state media, the president went on a “working trip” in Donetsk. This port city was annexed by Russia in September 2013 after the invasion.
After an International Criminal Court warrant was issued for his arrest on Friday, the visit seemed to be a defiance.
According to the state-owned TASS news agency which cited Putin, Mr Putin arrived by helicopter and travelled through several areas of the city stopping to talk to residents.
The president was seen driving around the city, visiting a concert hall and then being taken to Russia by state media. This was allegedly done in order to keep prisoner of war in cages last year during “sham trials”.
Yesterday, Mr Putin also went to Crimea to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Ukraine’s annexed Black Sea Peninsula.
In September, he annexed Ukraine’s regions Kherson, Luhansk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia, signing a law which incorporated them into Russia, despite so-called referenda being rejected by Ukraine and the West.
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The majority of the world regards Russia’s annexes as illegal. However, Ukraine has stated that it will fight for the return of these regions.
Mariupol was a strategically important port on the Sea of Azov and was the scene of some of most intense fighting during the first part of World War II.
For a last stand defensive, Ukrainian forces hid in the Azovstal steelworks of the city. This was followed by a three-month-long Russian siege.
Mariupol’s siege caused damage to more than 2,500 buildings, nearly half the total amount of the city.
Russia has been transforming the city in its own image ever since it was captured. This includes turning the ruined steelworks which used to be one of Europe’s largest metallurgical plants into a “tech- and eco park”.
According to Russian media, Putin met with the head of his military operation in Ukraine. This included Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerrasimov.
According to TASS, the meeting took place at Rostov-on Don command post in southern Russia near the Ukrainian border.
After flying from Moscow to Sevastopol (the largest city in Crimea), Mr Putin was met by Mikhail Razvozhayev the Russian-installed governor. He then visited an art school as well as a children’s center.
Although Mr Putin’s comments were not broadcast on state media, he spoke about Crimea as a matter of urgency as recently as Friday.
He stated that security issues are of paramount importance to Crimea and Sevastopol right now.
“We will do all we can to stop any threats.”
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Although Mr Putin did not speak publicly about the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for him, his spokesperson called it “null & void” Friday.
According to the court, he was responsible for hundreds of kidnappings of Ukrainian children in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.
Russia doesn’t recognize the court’s jurisdiction, which is based at The Hague.
It does not extradite its citizens for the court’s justice. This means that Mr Putin will likely never face trial.