Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the city of Mariupol, nearly a year after Russia claimed to have captured the strategic port city, Russian news agencies reported Sunday.
This is the first visit of the Russian leader to the Donbas region since the Ukraine conflict started in February last year. Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter before touring the city in a car, Tass news agency quoted the Kremlin as saying.
Putin’s visit to Mariupol was announced on Saturday. His visit came on the heels of a trip to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.
According to Tas news agency, he visited various places in Mariupol, talked to local residents and received reports about the reconstruction of the city. Russia launched a “scorched earth” campaign against Mariupol at the start of its offensive last year, destroying the Azovastal steel works in eastern Ukraine, considered the last bastion of Ukrainian forces.
Putin’s surprise visit to Crimea was his first visit to the peninsula since sending troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year. Last December, he only crossed the bridge, which connects with Russia.
Russian state television showed him visiting the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol with his aide, local governor Mikhail Razvozayev.
“Putin is expected to attend the opening of an art school for children via video link,” Razvozayev wrote in a telegram.
The referendum on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 was not recognized by Kyiv or the international community. Speaking at the Davos Forum in January, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Crimea is our land, and Ukraine will take Crimea back. Moscow has since refused to include Ukraine in potential peace talks.
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