Putin in Mariupol for his first visit to the conquered zone
Sputnik, by Agence France-Presse The governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, received a visit from Vladimir Putin on Saturday, at the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the referendum on the status of Crimea and Sevastopol and its reunification with Russia.
Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol, a Ukrainian city devastated by bombardments, his first visit to a conquered zone since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the Kremlin reported on Sunday, after the issuance of an arrest warrant. against the Russian president.
He flew to Mariupol by helicopter and toured the city, driving a car, the Kremlin press service said on Sunday.< /p>
According to images broadcast by Russian public television, the trip took place at night, Vladimir Putin being introduced in particular to the night lighting of the streets of Mariupol and speaking with residents. “We are praying for you,” Putin told one of the residents, saying the city was “a little piece of heaven.”
The Russian leader also visited a local musical theater rebuilt and followed the presentation of a report on the work of reconstruction of this devastated city, according to the Kremlin.
This is his first trip to this Ukrainian port city besieged for months by Russian forces before it fell in May 2022.
This surprise visit to Mariupol is above all the first trip of the master of the Kremlin in the Donbass, in a conquered zone, since the outbreak of the Russian offensive on February 24, 2022, which earned Moscow a series of severe international sanctions.
According to the Kremlin, Putin also held a meeting in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia), not far from the Ukrainian border, with Russian military officials, including the head of state. -major, Valéri Gerasimov.
He had previously visited Crimea on Saturday, for the 9th anniversary of the annexation of this Ukrainian peninsula by Russia, also under international sanctions. It was his first visit to Crimea since 2021.
In addition, Vladimir Putin has been targeted since Friday by an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of the war crime of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children.
The Court, which sits in The Hague, also tried to assess whether the bombing and siege of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, could constitute a crime against humanity. She concluded that she lacked the elements to reach such a conclusion, having had no access to the Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located.
The Kremlin found it “null and void” the arrest warrant of the ICC, whose jurisdiction Moscow does not recognize.
“Like a thief”
Ukrainian authorities strongly denounced Putin's visit on Sunday, calling him an “international criminal”. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense notably indicated on Twitter that the Russian president went to Mariupol “like a thief” in the middle of the night.
“As if he were a thief, Putin visited the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, taking shelter behind the night,” the ministry said. First, it's safer. Also, the night allows him to emphasize what he wants to show, and keeps the town that his army has utterly destroyed and its few surviving inhabitants safe from prying eyes. »
A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podoliak, meanwhile denounced Vladimir Putin's “cynicism” and “lack of remorse”. “Criminals always return to the scene of their crimes… The murderer of thousands of Mariupol families came to admire the ruins of the city and its graves. Cynicism and lack of remorse,” he wrote on Twitter.
Saturday in Sevastopol, home port of the fleet of the Black Sea in Crimea, Mr. Putin had notably attended the inauguration ceremony of a school of arts for children in the company of the local governor, Mikhail Razvojayev, according to the images broadcast by the public television channel Rossia-1 .
This city is located only about 240 km from Kherson, a southern Ukrainian city taken over by the army from Kiev in November after the withdrawal of Russian forces.
“Our President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, knows how to surprise. In the good sense of the word,” Mr. Razvojayev wrote on Telegram.
“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Driving. Because on a historic day like today, he is always with Sevastopol and its people,” said Mikhail Razvojayev.
Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum not recognized by Kiev and the international community.
“New era” with China
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that he intended to take back Crimea — “our land” — by arms, Moscow keeps repeating that “Crimea is Russian”, refusing to make it the subject of possible peace negotiations.
The international arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin was issued the day Moscow and Beijing unveiled the visit from Monday. Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Russia, meant to usher in a “new era” in relations between two allies.
The visit, scheduled until Wednesday, comes just over a year after the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine which led the Kremlin to reorient itself towards China, against a backdrop of tensions with the West, which supports Ukraine.
With Le Devoir