“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime”: defiant Putin circles occupied Mariupol
Vladimir Putin visited the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol, his first visit to the conquered territory since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine after an international arrest warrant was issued for the Russian president.
Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter and toured the city by car, the Kremlin press service said Sunday, citing Russian news agencies.
According to a video broadcast by Russian public television, the trip took place at night, with Putin shown on the streets and talking to residents. “We are praying for you,” Putin assured one of the residents, calling the city “a little piece of paradise.”
The Russian leader also visited the reconstructed local musical theater and followed the presentation of a report on the reconstruction work in this ruined city, the Kremlin said.
This is his first trip to the Ukrainian port city, which was under siege by Russian forces for several months before falling in May 2022.
Ukrainian officials criticized the visit, calling Putin an “international criminal”.
“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
Prior to his trip to Mariupol on Saturday evening, Putin also held a meeting in Rostov, Russia, with Russian army officials, including Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, according to the Kremlin.
On Saturday, he visited the port city of Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea as part of a weekend commemorating Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Events dedicated to the anniversary were held in St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg, as well as in the Crimea itself, where an action was held by the ultra-right criminal biker group “Night Wolves”, closely associated with Vladimir Putin for a number of years.
Friday International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes due to his alleged involvement in kidnappings of children from Ukraine.
The court statement said that the President of Russia “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of the population (children) and illegal transfer of the population (children) from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
A Kremlin spokesman called the arrest warrant “outrageous and unacceptable” and called the ICC’s decisions “legally invalid.”
The ICC said its Pre-Trial Chamber found “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect is responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of the population and illegal transfer of population from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation to the detriment of Ukrainian children.”
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the invasion began, according to Kyiv, many of whom have been placed in boarding schools and foster families.