Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the bombing-ravaged Ukrainian city of Mariupol on his first trip to the conflict zone since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, the Kremlin reported Sunday.
Putin arrived in Mariupol after he visited the Crimean peninsula on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation in 2014. Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and took a tour of the city driving himself, the agency reported. official TASS news quoting the Kremlin. He talked with local people, visited places of interest and received a report on the reconstruction work in Mariupol, the same source said.
It is his first visit to this southeastern Ukrainian port city, devastated after months of siege by Russian forces, who captured it in May 2022. Putin’s arrival in Mariupol came after his surprise visit to Crimea. In Sevastopol, the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Putin attended the inauguration of a children’s art school together with the local governor, Mikhail Razvojayev, according to images from the Rossia-1 public television network.
This is Putin’s closest trip to the front line. “Our president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In the good sense of the word,” Moscow-appointed governor Mikhail Razvojaev wrote on Telegram. “But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Because on a historic day like today, he is always with Sevastopol and its inhabitants,” he said. The visit did not mark a pause in military operations in eastern Ukraine, where at least two people have been killed in Russian shelling, according to Ukrainian sources.
– cluster bombs –
At least two people died and ten were wounded, three seriously, in bombardments with “cluster bombs” in Kramatorsk, a city in the Donbas mining basin (east), according to Pavlo Kirilenko, Donetsk regional governor. AFP journalists heard almost simultaneous explosions around 4:00 p.m. local time and saw smoke rising from a park in the south of the city.
Shortly after, a dozen explosions of the same type shook a residential neighborhood, about 2 km from the first target. Reporters attended the death of a woman as a result of the bombing of the park and saw a seriously injured taxi driver in the residential area.
– Capture order “no value” –
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea in January and its refusal to include it as a concession in any peace negotiations. Putin made this trip the day after the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, issued an arrest warrant against him for “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children in areas occupied by Russia since February 2022.
kyiv claims that more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the start of the conflict. Russia, which is not part of the ICC member countries, considered that order “null and void.” On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Russia, who is increasingly seeking to position his country as a mediator in international conflicts.
“We have declared on several occasions that we are open to serious proposals from the West and Ukraine on a solution to the crisis through political-diplomatic means,” Russian diplomacy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday. “But ultimatums are unacceptable,” she added, demanding the “lifting of all illegitimate sanctions and the annulment of all legal actions against Russia before international judicial bodies.”
– cereal agreement –
Turkey and the United Nations announced the extension of the agreement that allows the export of Ukrainian cereals, negotiated after the Russian invasion to alleviate the world food crisis. Ukraine claimed that the extension was for 120 days, but Russia specified that it was only for 60.
The pact, sealed on July 22 with the mediation of Turkey, provides for automatic renewals for 120 days except in the event of objections by any of the parties. Russia had already indicated on March 13 that this time it would only renew it for half of that period, alleging that a parallel agreement regarding exports of Russian fertilizers and agricultural products had not been respected.