Ukraine Latest: Defiant Putin visits Mariupol after ICC arrest warrant

Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov, chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, visit a children's arts-and-crafts centre, part of Chersonesos Taurica historical and archeological park on the ninth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea, in Sevastopol, Crimea, 18 March 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sputnik Kremlin Pool)

President Vladimir Putin flew into the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol in Donetsk. The unannounced trip, which wasn’t planned in advance, came hours after he visited Crimea for ‘reunification' events marking the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. 

The Russian leader’s first visit to an area newly occupied by Russia during its yearlong war — and the site of one of the deadliest battles — came after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin on Friday, citing his alleged role in unlawfully deporting thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. Kids from Mariupol are believed to be among those transported to Russia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will start a three-day state visit to Russia on Monday. The grain export deal that’s allowed Ukraine to ship from key Black Sea ports was renewed on Saturday, hours before it was due to expire.

Key Developments

  • Putin Makes Surprise Visit to Occupied City of Mariupol
  • Xi’s Embrace of Putin Dents His Chances as Peacemaker on Ukraine
  • Ukraine Grain Deal Renewed, Clearing Way for Continued Exports

Votes Being Counted in Kazakh Election 

Kazakhs voted in early parliamentary elections on Sunday in what President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called the final stage of a government “reset” in response to deadly riots last year.

Although Tokayev asked President Vladimir Putin for help to crush those protests, he hasn’t backed Russia in its war with Ukraine in return — looking instead to strengthen ties to the European Union.

Serbia’s Leader Questions Wisdom of Arrest Warrant for Putin 

Accusing Vladimir Putin of war crimes and issuing an International Criminal Court arrest warrant risks further escalating the war in Ukraine and reducing chances for a peace deal, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

“Who are you going to talk to then?” after a move that further isolates Putin, said Vucic whose government has condemned the invasion of Ukraine but declined to join Western sanctions against the Kremlin. “Saving lives and achieving piece is much more important,” he told reporters in Belgrade.

Vucic also said Russia can’t be defeated in a few months or a year.

Zelensky Congratulates Xi on Reelection

Volodymyr Zelensky sent a congratulatory message to Xi Jinping after he secured a third term as Chinese president earlier this month, China’s state broadcaster reported.

Kyiv attaches great importance to friendly relations with China, the Ukrainian president was cited as saying by China Central Television.

China’s leader is headed to Russia for a three-day state visit that starts Monday, and is widely expected to hold a phone conversation with Zelensky after that.

Kremlin Releases 40-Minute Video of Putin in Mariupol 

The Kremlin released a 40-minute video of Russian President Vladimir Putin driving around Mariupol in an SUV at night in a highly-classified trip that wasn’t planned in advance.

Putin was shown visiting a new apartment block, where he stood in a playground surrounded by bodyguards while an official showed him photographs of reconstruction works. Later, Putin was shown meeting with local people in the Nevsky district, who told him how grateful they were for Russia’s “victory.” One man invited Putin to his apartment and the Russian president made a brief visit.

The Kremlin said Putin “inspected the coastline in the area of the yacht club,” although no footage was provided.

Xi Heads to Russia, His Chances of Peacemaker Dented by Putin Embrace 

Xi Jinping will deliver a strong message of support for Vladimir Putin with his three-day visit to Moscow this week, even as he pitches Beijing’s proposals for brokering an end to the Russian leader’s war in Ukraine.

The trip marks Xi’s most ambitious effort yet to weigh into Europe’s bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, and will be followed by his first conversation with Ukraine’s president since Putin’s invasion.

Putin Makes Surprise Visit to Occupied Ukrainian City 

Putin travelled by helicopter into Mariupol on the Sea of Azov in southern Donetsk province, the Kremlin said. The Russian leader’s unannounced visit – his first since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and later claimed to have annexed four provinces  – followed his appearance in Crimea.

Putin reviewed construction and restoration work in Mariupol, Tass said. An official video showed Putin driving a car through streets at night. The location can’t be verified. Much of the city, which had a pre-war population of about 450,000, was laid to waste in one of the bloodiest battles of Russia’s war.

The visit comes almost exactly a year after a Russian missile strike on the Mariupol Drama Theatre on March 16, 2022, killed hundreds of people sheltering inside. Amnesty International has labelled the theatre strike “a clear war crime”. Ukraine estimates that 20,000 civilians died during Russia’s months-long siege.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Christopher Campbell says:

    Are we sure that this wasn’t a body double? It seems unlikely that he would travel to Ukraine when he is so secretive about where he is in Russia.

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