Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev visit the Children's Art and Aesthetic center in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 18, 2023. (Photo: AP)
CRIMEA: Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to a report Sunday from the Russian state news agency Tass.
Putin traveled to Crimea on Saturday on the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded Russia’s withdrawal from Crimea and all areas it has occupied since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which entered its second year in February.
Saturday’s trip also came the day after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest, charging him with being personally responsible for the abduction of children from Ukraine in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian leader visited an art center and a children’s center in Crimea.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday in its daily intelligence update on Russia’s invasion that the “quiet declaration of an alternative capital” for the Zaporizhzhia Oblast “is likely tacit acknowledgement within the Russian system that its forces are highly unlikely to seize previously planned major objectives in the near future.”
Russian officials published a decree on March 3 declaring Melitopol as the Zaporizhzhia oblast capital. It was designed as a temporary measure, the ministry said, until the city of Zaporizhzhia is controlled by Russia.
However, Russia has never occupied the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is about 35 kilometers from the current front line.
Putin claimed in September to have annexed four oblasts, including Zaporizhzhia, as part of the Russian Federation.