Putin makes surprise trip to occupied Ukrainian city Mariupol


March 19 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the occupied city of Mariupol in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Sunday, a day after he made a trip to the Ukrainian province of Crimea on the anniversary of its illegal annexation by Russia.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, has been occupied by Russian forces since May after troops carried out a three-month-long siege that led to the surrender of fighters at the Azovstal steel plant and destroyed much of the city.


Putin’s brazen visit to the occupied city, which was revealed by the Kremlin in a statement, comes just over a year after Russian forces bombed a children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol.

Kremlin officials said in the statement that Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter before traveling throughout the city by car and met with local residents.

“At the invitation of one of the families, I went to their home,” Putin alleged in the statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia’s press arm RIA Novosti that Putin discussed salaries, Russian citizenship and the issuing of Russian passports with the Ukrainians living in Mariupol.


Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who traveled with Putin, discussed reconstruction efforts in the destroyed city. The Kremlin said that Moscow will construct “new residential micro districts” in Mariupol, with “social and educational facilities” and medical institutions.

Khusnullin admitted that Russian officials considered demolishing Ukrainian monuments in the city center, even as Russia has faced accusations of trying to wipe out Ukrainian culture.

“The people began to return. When they saw that restoration was underway, the people began to actively return,” Khusnullin alleged. “Population growth.”

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksii Honcharenko addressed Putin’s visit to Ukraine in a post to Telegram.

“Did the war criminal come to see with his own eyes the genocide he committed in Mariupol? Why at night? Are we afraid?” Honcharenko said. “And in general, a good fairy tale for stupid Russians.”

Putin on Saturday signed two bills into law that raise fines and jail time for Russians who criticize the war in Ukraine and for selling Russian weapons abroad.