Moscow, Mariupol For the first time since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin has visited the occupied territories of the neighboring country. As the Kremlin announced on Sunday night, Putin paid a “working visit” to the port city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea, which was destroyed in heavy fighting. Russian state television showed the 70-year-old at the wheel of a car driving at night. Damage to buildings could also be seen.
After arriving in a helicopter during a tour, Putin found out about the situation and also talked to residents of the city, the Kremlin said. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Chusnullin informed Putin about the status of the reconstruction work. “People are starting to return to the city,” Chusnullin said in the video from the passenger seat. Street lighting and bus services are back in Mariupol.
State television also showed footage from the city’s philharmonic hall, showing Putin in front of a marble arched window. According to Chusnullin, a university building including a student residence is also intact. Citizens were also shown thanking Putin for the unannounced visit. The fact that all video recordings originate from Mariupol and confirm the Kremlin’s message could not be independently verified.
Mariupol is part of Donetsk – one of four regions that Russia declared Russian territory in September. The government in Kiev and its allies speak of an illegal annexation.
According to the Kremlin, Putin also held a meeting in a command center for the “military special operation” against Ukraine, as the war is officially called in Russia, in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don near Ukraine. There, the President was briefed by Commander Valeri Gerasimov, who is also Chief of the Russian General Staff, and other officers about the course of combat operations in the neighboring country.
On Saturday afternoon, Putin visited the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed in 2014. On the 9th anniversary of the incorporation, state television broadcast images of the Kremlin chief driving a car and opening an art school for children in the port city of Sevastopol.
Russia launched a war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Mariupol was besieged by Russian troops and has been under full Russian military control since May 20. The city was largely destroyed during the fighting. Ukraine announced plans to liberate Mariupol.
More: Putin visits the captured port city of Mariupol and consults with military leaders