March 21, 2023

CARL RITTER (Related Press)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied port metropolis of Mariupol, his first journey to Ukrainian territory illegally annexed by Moscow in September and a present of defiance for the reason that Worldwide Felony Courtroom issued a warrant for his arrest for struggle crimes. accusations.

Putin arrived in Mariupol late Saturday after visiting Crimea, southwest of Mariupol, to mark the ninth anniversary of Ukraine’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned Sunday. He was proven interacting with Mariupol residents and attending an artwork college and kids’s heart in Sevastopol, Crimea.

Mariupol turned a worldwide image of resistance after small Ukrainian troops held out on the metal plant for almost three months earlier than Moscow lastly took management in Could. A lot of the metropolis was destroyed by Russian shelling.

Putin has not commented on the arrest warrant, exacerbating his worldwide isolation, regardless of the chance that he’ll stand trial anytime quickly. The Kremlin, which doesn’t acknowledge the authority of the ICC, dismissed his transfer as “legally invalid.”

The shock journey additionally comes forward of Chinese language President Xi Jinping’s deliberate go to to Moscow this week, which is predicted to present a significant diplomatic increase to Putin in his confrontation with the West.

White Home Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby instructed Fox Information Sunday that any name for a ceasefire in Ukraine coming from the Putin-Xi assembly can be unacceptable to the US as a result of it might solely “ratify Russia’s conquest thus far.” and provides Moscow “time to re-equip, re-train, re-staff and attempt to plan a brand new offensive.”

Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter after which toured town’s “memorial websites”, a live performance corridor and the shoreline, in accordance with Russian media. The state-run Rossiya 24 channel on Sunday confirmed Putin speaking to locals exterior a constructing that appears like a newly constructed residence advanced, and he’s proven round one of many flats.

After a visit to Mariupol, Putin met with Russian army leaders and troops at a command submit in Rostov-on-Don, a metropolis in southern Russia about 180 kilometers to the east, and conferred with Basic Valery Gerasimov, who was in control of Russian army operations in Ukraine. Peskov mentioned.

Peskov mentioned the journey was unannounced, and that Putin supposed to “examine the operation of the (command) submit in its typical mode.”

In a dialog with the state company RIA Novosti, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin made it clear that Russia would stay in Mariupol. He mentioned the federal government hoped to finish the reconstruction of the devastated metropolis by the top of the yr.

“Folks began coming again. Once they noticed that reconstruction was underway, folks started to actively return, ”Khusnullin instructed RIA.

Mikhail Podolyak, head of the administration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, criticized Putin’s journey to Mariupol.

“The felony is at all times drawn to the crime scene,” he mentioned. “Whereas the nations of the civilized world announce the arrest of the “army director” in case of crossing the border, the organizer of the murders of hundreds of Mariupol households got here to admire the ruins of town and mass graves.”

When Moscow utterly took over town in Could, roughly 100,000 of the pre-war inhabitants of 450,000 remained. Many are trapped with out meals, water, warmth or electrical energy. The relentless bombardment left rows of destroyed or hollowed-out buildings in its wake.

The plight of Mariupol first attracted worldwide consideration after a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital on March 9, 2022, lower than two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine started. Per week later, it was reported that about 300 folks have been killed in a bomb blast in a theater that was used as the biggest bomb shelter within the metropolis. The precise loss of life toll may very well be nearer to 600, in accordance with figures obtained by the Related Press.

A small group of Ukrainian fighters held out for 83 days on the sprawling Azovstal metal plant in japanese Mariupol earlier than surrendering. Their cussed protection tied up Russian forces and have become a logo of Ukraine’s resilience within the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, in what a lot of the world condemned as unlawful, and in September formally declared 4 areas in southern and japanese Ukraine Russian territory after referenda that Kiev and the West known as a sham.

On Friday, the ICC accused Putin of being personally liable for kidnapping kids from Ukraine. UN investigators additionally mentioned there was proof of the forcible switch of “a whole lot” of Ukrainian kids to Russia. Greater than 16,000 kids have been deported to Russian-controlled territories or Russia itself, lots of them from Mariupol, in accordance with the Ukrainian authorities.

Whereas Kyiv has welcomed the ICC’s determination, the possibilities of Putin being delivered to justice are slim as a result of Moscow doesn’t acknowledge the court docket’s jurisdiction and doesn’t extradite its residents.

On Sunday, Ukrainian officers mentioned at the very least three civilians had been killed and 19 wounded in Russian shelling within the earlier 24 hours. In keeping with Governor Pavel Kirilenko on Ukrainian tv, the deaths occurred within the east of the Donetsk area, in opposition to the backdrop of fierce combating for management of town of Bakhmut.

Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleg Sinegubov mentioned in a Telegram message {that a} 51-year-old lady was “combating for her life” after she was hit by shrapnel when Russian troops shelled the border city of Dvorichnaya.

Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak mentioned Ukrainian troops have been holding the road close to Bakhmut, a key goal of the lengthy and laborious Russian offensive, including that the enemy’s plan to occupy town was “now collapsing.”

A spokesman for Ukraine’s japanese forces mentioned Russian troops have been “tactically unable to finish” the seize of Bakhmut.

“Sure, there are very energetic battles, (the Russians) proceed to hold out a number of dozen assaults by inertia, however they undergo enormous losses,” Serhiy Cherevaty mentioned on Ukrainian TV, including that the Ukrainian protection “bleeds the enemy, breaking his army operations.” spirit.”

Capturing Bakhmut would give the Kremlin a victory on the battlefield after months of setbacks and will pave the best way for Russia to threaten different Ukrainian strongholds within the area, together with Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.

Russian forces shelled a home in Belozerka, a suburb west of the southern metropolis of Kherson, and a girl pulled from the rubble was hospitalized, the Kherson Regional Army Directorate reported on Telegram.


Comply with AP’s protection of the struggle in Ukraine:

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