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Putin’s macabre tour of occupied Ukraine: Russian leader visits besieged regions of Crimea and Mariupol

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PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin speaks on the phone in his office in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on December 15, 2018.

Aleksey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

  • A defiant Putin has begun a tour of occupied areas of Ukraine, stopping in Crimea and Mariupol.
  • The Russian leader visited besieged areas that have faced widespread casualties since the invasion began.
  • The trip comes after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun a macabre tour of occupied Ukraine, two days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes related to Russia’s invasion of the country.

Putin stopped first in Crimea on Saturday, The New York Times reported, with the visit timed to align with the 9th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the region in 2014.

According to Russian state-sponsored media outlet Tass, Putin then visited Mariupol early Sunday in his first-ever visit to the Donbas region. Mass graves have been discovered in the besieged Ukrainian city, after Russian forces leveled the region and bombed a steel plant where civilians and Ukrainian defenders were hiding.

During Putin’s visit to the region, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin began creating a report about reconstruction efforts in the city and its outskirts, Tass reported.

“In particular, the report concerned the construction of new residential districts, social and educational facilities, utility infrastructure and medical centers,” Tass reported the Kremlin press service said.

The Russian leader’s visit to occupied Ukraine comes on the heels of the International Criminal Court, a tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands, issuing an international arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin on Friday. The ICC accused Putin of being responsible for war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is calling for him to stand trial — though it is unlikely he will do so, as Russia, like the US, does not recognize the authority of the ICC.

Representatives for the ICC declined to answer Insider’s questions regarding the likelihood Putin will face a trial for the war crimes he is accused of.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is set to meet with Putin during a visit to Russia beginning Monday, according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Xi and Putin plan to discuss “deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation” between their nations, the Kremlin said in a Friday statement.

Ukrainian military leaders have hinted at the possibility of a springtime counteroffensive, though an anonymous official told The Washington Post that all hope for a counterattack will rely on Western military aid and trained troops arriving in the region.

The United States has provided billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine as it faces the Russian invasion, with President Joe Biden promising to continue sending military and humanitarian aid.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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