Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a captured Ukrainian city on Sunday for the first time since invading the country last year.
Putin made an unannounced trip to the coastal city of Mariupol, a city Russian forces reduced to near ruins with artillery fire earlier in the invasion. Footage shows Putin driving around the city at night while Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin explains the efforts Russian forces are taking to rebuild the city.
Putin’s regime has touted the rebuilding efforts in Mariupol as evidence of its claim to be liberating Ukrainians from fascistic leaders.
Mariupol saw some of the most dramatic and intense fighting of the early months of Russia’s invasion, with Ukrainian forces holding out in a steel factory after Russian forces had all but taken the city. Ukraine’s soldiers eventually surrendered in May.
Putin’s visit came just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him over the abduction of Ukrainian children away from their families last week.
The ICC warrant has little real-world impact, however, given the court’s limited jurisdiction. The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow.
Putin will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow later this week, with China attempting to negotiate peace terms between Russia and Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed skepticism of China’s entrance to the peacemaking scene but said he is open to dialogue.
Xi is expected to have a phone call with Zelenskyy sometime after his visit to Moscow. Such a call would be the first personal interaction for the pair since before Putin’s invasion.