Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a surprise visit to Ukraine's port city of Mariupol, a day after he visited Crimea, following an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Russian leader on "war crime accusations".
Putin flew by helicopter to Mariupol early on Sunday in his first visit to the city since it was captured after a lengthy siege at the start of Ukraine-Russia war, Russian media said, adding that the Russian leader toured districts around the city in a car and spoke to residents in Nevsky neighborhood.
During Putin's visit to Mariupol, a Ukrainian city liberated by Russian forces in May, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin reported about the progress made in the reconstruction of new residential areas, social and educational facilities, utility infrastructure, and medical centers in the city and its outskirts, Tass news agency reported.
Putin also met with members of the top command of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of the Russian forces in Ukraine.
The meeting took place at the Rostov-on-Don command post in southern Russia, TASS reported.
In February 2022, Moscow launched its 'special military operation' in eastern Ukraine to liberate the pro-Russia population in the region.
Putin is due back in Moscow on Monday for a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The Kremlin announced on Friday that Putin and Xi plan to usher in a "new era" in relations during the Chinese leader's Moscow visit.
The two leaders will discuss "deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation," Putin's top advisor Yuri Ushakov said.
Ushakov noted that Russia's military campaign in Ukraine will also be on the agenda, adding that Putin and Xi will sign an important declaration "on strengthening (the two countries') comprehensive partnership and strategic relations entering a new era."
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, described Xi's trip to Moscow as "a visit for peace".
The Russian leader's visit to the recently-liberated city comes after the Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant against him on war crime charges.
The ICC court said in a statement on Friday the arrest warrant was issued over Putin’s alleged involvement in the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
The Kremlin has dismissed the court warrant as "null and void", insisting that The Hague lacks such jurisdiction.
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