Putin visits Mariupol: Unfazed by arrest warrant, Russian president’s trip to Ukraine is all for the cameras
Vladimir Putin’s visit to Mariupol comes in the week that he was indicted by the International Criminal Court for the trafficking of children to all intents and purposes – and comes off the back of his visit to Crimea on Saturday for the ninth anniversary of its illegal annexation.
This appears to be a show of strength, a chance for Putin to show his audience back home that he is undeterred and unfazed by the arrest warrant issued for war crimes.
It’s all for the cameras – it’s to send a message back home that not only is it business as usual for him, but that he can go wherever he wants, including into mainland Ukraine.
The Russian president has mainly been in Moscow throughout this war.
He hasn’t gone to the frontlines really, in contrast to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, who often goes to the frontline to boost the morale of his troops.
Mariupol is significant for Russia because it’s the only large city they hold in mainland Ukraine – it’s their only real “victory” in this war of attrition.
Mariupol was also the scene of terrible fighting this time last year, and there are an awful lot of allegations of war crimes there that Putin may well have to answer to in future as well.
This war is grinding on, and all indicators from both sides are that it could go on for a long time.
But Ukraine has been determined to take back Mariupol since the day they lost it to Russian forces, and they are showing no signs of giving up that hope.
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And while people here will be disturbed by what they see, waking up to these pictures of Putin strolling around Mariupol, you could argue there is not much Putin does that surprises them any more – it’s the type of thing they might expect from him.
I don’t think it makes much difference to them anyway: the country remains united, they hate the war, but they remain determined to keep fighting.
And President Putin turning up in occupied territory in Ukraine is not going to change that, if anything it will probably make them more determined that he never gets to do it in future again.