Unfazed by arrest warrant, Putin’s visit to Mariupol 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.

In this photo taken from video released by Russian TV Pool on Sunday, March 19, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin escorting by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visits the Mariupol theater during his visit to Mariupol in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, Ukraine. Putin has traveled to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula's annexation from Ukraine (Pool Photo via AP)

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.

East of Ukraine map on day 388 of the war

Read more:
Arrest warrant issued for Putin over alleged war crimes
What the arrest warrant really means for the Russian leader
How steelworks turned into the final outpost in the brutal battle for Mariupol

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.

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