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By Lidia Kelly

(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin made a shock go to to Mariupol, Russian state media reported on Sunday, in what could be the Kremlin chief’s first journey to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine’s Donbas area for the reason that begin of the warfare.

The go to got here after Putin travelled to Crimea on Saturday in an unannounced go to to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, and simply two days after the Worldwide Prison Court docket (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian chief.

Mariupol, which fell to Russia in Might after one of many warfare’s longest and bloodiest battles, was Russia’s first main victory after it didn’t seize Kyiv and centered as a substitute on southeastern Ukraine.

Putin flew by helicopter to Mariupol, Russian new businesses reported citing the Kremlin. It’s the closest to the entrance traces Putin has been since within the year-long warfare. Driving a automobile, Putin travelled round a number of districts of the town, making stops and speaking to residents.

Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, was decreased to a smouldering shell after weeks of combating. The Group for Safety and Cooperation and Europe (OSCE) stated Russia’s early bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a warfare crime.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant on Friday in opposition to Putin, accusing him of the warfare crime of illegally deporting a whole bunch of youngsters from Ukraine, a extremely symbolic transfer that isolates the Russian chief additional.

Whereas Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made a lot of journeys to the battlefield to spice up the morale of his troops and discuss technique, Putin has largely remained contained in the Kremlin whereas operating what Russia calls its “particular navy operation” in Ukraine.

Kyiv and its allies say the invasion, now in its thirteenth month, is an imperialistic land seize that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of millions of individuals in Ukraine.

Within the Nevsky district of Mariupol, a brand new residential neighbourhood constructed by Russian navy, Putin visited a household of their dwelling, Russian media reported.

“The pinnacle of state additionally examined the shoreline of Mariupol within the space of the yacht membership, the theatre constructing, memorable locations of the town,” theInterfax company cited the Kremlin’s press service.

Mariupol is within the Donetsk area, one of many 4 areas Putin moved in September to annex. Kyiv and its Western allies condemned the transfer as unlawful. Donetsk, along with the Luhansk area, comprise a lot of the Donbas industrialised a part of Ukraine that has seen the largest battle in Europe for generations.

Russian media reported on Sunday that Putin additionally met with the highest commander of his navy operation in Ukraine, together with Chief of the Common Employees Valery Gerasimov who’s in command of Moscow’s warfare in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Modifying by Lincoln Feast)

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