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Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced nighttime go to to Mariupol, the occupied Ukrainian metropolis that symbolizes Kyiv’s fierce resistance to Moscow’s invasion, in a potential present of defiance after the Worldwide Prison Court docket (ICC) issued a struggle for his arrest.

Putin flew by helicopter to the port metropolis, which had been destroyed by Russian bombardments and heavy combating, for a “working go to,” Russian state media reported on March 19. He visited a number of websites in Mariupol and spoke with residents, the experiences mentioned.

Dwell Briefing: Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL’s Dwell Briefing offers you all the newest developments on Russia’s full-scale invasion, Kyiv’s counteroffensives, Western army assist, international response, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL’s protection of the struggle, click on right here.

The journey was the primary by Putin to a area of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces after the launch of his full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. Putin’s journeys are virtually at all times extremely choreographed by the Kremlin to spice up his picture at residence.

The battle for Mariupol captured worldwide consideration as Ukrainian fighters, encircled and holed up in a large metals plant, heroically defended the town for 3 months earlier than surrendering in Could 2022 as they ran low on meals and drugs.

However the battle additionally highlighted for the world Russia’s brutality as its army launched strikes on civilian infrastructure, killing what’s believed to be hundreds of Mariupol residents, and triggering accusations of struggle crimes.

In two of essentially the most notorious circumstances, Russia shelled a theater used as a bomb shelter, killing as many as 600 folks, in addition to a maternity ward.

Putin’s go to to the symbolic metropolis sparked anger in Kyiv and within the West.

The Ukrainian Protection Ministry mentioned in a press release that Putin selected to go to at evening to cover from Russian TV viewers the destruction he wrought on Mariupol and the following desolation it has prompted.

As soon as a bustling port metropolis with a inhabitants of half 1,000,000, Mariupol is now residence to simply about 90,000 folks, lots of them too previous or too in poor health to depart the ravaged metropolis.

The outskirts of Mariupol are crammed with the graves of these killed within the combating.

“The legal at all times return to the crime scene,” Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak mentioned in a tweet about Putin’s go to to Mariupol. “The assassin of hundreds of Mariupol households got here to admire the ruins of the town and [its] graves. Cynicism and lack of regret.”

Amid the extreme Russian bombing and blockage, some Mariupol residents managed to flee to Kyiv-controlled territory. Others went to Russia, many forcibly so, together with kids.

The alleged deportation of Ukrainian kids to Russia is on the heart of the ICC’s unprecedented March 17 warrant for the arrest of Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, a Russian kids’s rights official.

“There are cheap grounds to consider that every suspect bears accountability for the struggle crime of illegal deportation of inhabitants and that of illegal switch of inhabitants from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian kids,” the ICC mentioned in a press release on March 17.

The warrant means Putin could possibly be arrested if he enters any of the courtroom’s 123 member states.

The Kremlin dismissed the warrant, arguing that it’s void as a result of Russia is just not within the ICC’s jurisdiction. Ukraine can also be not a member of the ICC.

Putin’s Mariupol go to comes a day after he toured Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.

Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea following Kyiv’s overthrow of Moscow-leaning President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 was the beginning of a brand new section of Kremlin aggression towards Ukraine that may culminate with the full-scale invasion of the nation final 12 months.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to regain all territory captured by Russia, together with Crimea. Ukraine is making ready a brand new, main counteroffensive that consultants say might start as early as subsequent month.

Within the meantime, Ukraine and Russia have agreed to increase a deal permitting the protected passage of grain exports by Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea.

WATCH: Standing simply behind the entrance line in Donetsk, the previous industrial metropolis of Avdiyivka lies in ruins. As Russian shelling continues, the few remaining residents say they don’t seem to be going anyplace.

Following a number of days of talks, Ukraine introduced the deal had been prolonged for 120 days, whereas Russia mentioned it had agreed to a 60-day extension.

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed in Istanbul on 22 July 2022, has been prolonged,” the United Nations mentioned on March 18 in a press release, referring to the preliminary settlement brokered final summer time by the UN and Turkey with Russia and Ukraine.

The UN assertion mentioned the deal had allowed the availability of 25 million tons of grain and foodstuffs, serving to to convey down international meals costs and stabilize markets. The assertion additionally thanked the Turkish authorities for its diplomatic and operational assist of the deal.

Britain’s Protection Ministry mentioned in its every day intelligence bulletin that the momentary change to an alternate regional capital within the Zaporizhzhya area — one in all 4 illegally annexed by Russia final 12 months — is “doubtless a tacit acknowledgment” that Russia is failing to satisfy its aims within the close to future.

On March 3, authorities within the Russian-controlled area issued a decree saying that occupied Melitopol would briefly change Zaporizhzhya metropolis because the regional capital till it was managed by Russia, Britain’s Protection Ministry mentioned in an replace on Twitter, including that Russia has by no means occupied Zaporizhzhya metropolis, which is roughly 35 kilometers from the present entrance line.

“The quiet declaration of an alternate capital is probably going tacit acknowledgement inside the Russian system that its forces are extremely unlikely to grab beforehand deliberate main aims within the close to future,” the intelligence replace mentioned on March 19.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Present time, Reuters, AFP and dpa

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