MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin of Russia travelled to Mariupol, his second surprise visit to Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine this weekend, and a defiant gesture soon after an international court had issued a warrant for his arrest.
Mr Putin flew by helicopter from Crimea and then toured Mariupol, in Donetsk province in the east, according to the state news outlet Tass on Sunday.
Mariupol was the site of one of the fiercest battles since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. The report from Tass referred to the stop as “a working trip” for Mr Putin to review construction and restoration work in the city, which was once home to 500,000 people and Europe’s largest steel plant.
It was Mr Putin’s second unannounced trip of the weekend to Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, and the closest the Russian leader has been to the front lines since the invasion in February 2022.
His trip on Saturday to Crimea was timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula.
The two high-profile visits were also defiant gestures from the Kremlin less than 48 hours after an international court issued a warrant for his arrest. The warrant claims that he bore individual criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children that has taken place since Russia’s invasion last year.
Since the start of winter, both sides have been locked in a grinding battle for land in the east where the front line has barely moved, each army running short of ammunition and experiencing mounting casualties.
Mr Putin has shown no signs of easing up or heading to the negotiating table, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has vowed to recapture all the territory that Russia grabbed, including Crimea.
So far, Ukraine has regained...