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Putin visits Ukrainian city of Russian-occupied Mariupol

Vladimir Putin visited the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Sunday, the TASS news agency reported.

Mariupol, in the Donetsk region, was captured by Russian forces after a bloody battle in May last year and has remained under the control of Moscow fighters ever since.

The Russian president was seen driving a car in the city as he visited several neighborhoods.

He also made stops along the way and spoke to locals, TASS news agency reported.

Mr Putin also met with top brass leading his military operation in Ukraine, state media reported today.

The leader, facing an arrest warrant for war crimes, also met with Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov who is in charge of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The meeting took place at the Rostov-on-Don command post in southern Russia, TASS news agency reported.

It is the first such visit by the Russian president, who launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year, to the country after conflict broke out in Europe and led to the displacement of millions, thousands of civilian deaths and several thousand injured.

The day before, Mr. Putin had made a surprise visit to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula to Ukraine.

His trip to the war-stricken country came a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for war crimes, alleging he was personally responsible for the abduction of children from Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

In Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol, Putin met with Moscow-based Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev, with whom he visited an art school and a children’s center that are part of a project to develop a historical park on the site of a former Greek colony, Russian state news agencies said.

“Our president knows how to surprise. In the right direction. Today we were to inaugurate an art school for children. Everything was ready for a videoconference and a report to the president via a special communication link. In the end, the president came personally. By car. He was driving himself. On such a historic day, the President is still with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol. Our country has an amazing leader,” Governor Razvozhayev wrote on Telegram.

Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, in a move most denounced as illegal and which soured relations between Moscow and the West. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said any peace deal would involve Russia’s withdrawal from the peninsula as well as areas it has occupied since last year.

The Independent Gt

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