Vladimir Putin paid an unannounced visit to the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, a clear show of defiance in the face of an international criminal court arrest warrant issued this week.
Russian official media broadcast footage of the president’s first visit to Russian-occupied regions in the Donbas region of Ukraine since he began a full-scale invasion last year.
Putin traveled to Crimea on Saturday, a short distance south-west of Mariupol, to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Putin was seen on television touring the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol with the Moscow-appointed local governor, Mikhail Razvoshayev.
The Tass news agency reported that Putin arrived in Mariupol by air on Saturday and toured the city in his own vehicle. He visited many places, chatted with locals, and was given a report on the city’s rehabilitation efforts.
Last year, Mariupol was the scene of some of the most savage fighting of the war. As the first large city to come under Russia’s control following the invasion of 2022, it holds symbolic importance for the Kremlin.