Day 389 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Putin visited occupied Mariupol
Day 389 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Putin visited the newly annexed territories for the first time and walked around Mariupol
- Ukraine war: Russia used cluster bombs, killed and injured in Kramatorsk
- Zelensky announced new military aid from NATO
- Kyiv imposed sanctions on Iranian and Syrian officials
- Germany will arrest Putin if he steps on its territory
- In Moscow, arrests are made after whistleblowing in the subway
Putin visited the newly annexed territories for the first time and walked around Mariupol
President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the war-torn port of Mariupol over the weekend - his first trip to Russian-occupied and annexed Ukrainian territories since the attack on Ukraine more than a year ago.
On Saturday, he made an unannounced visit to the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed on March 18, 2014, just two days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes.
Putin has yet to publicly comment on the ICC order, but his trips to Ukrainian territory that only a handful of countries around the world recognize as Russian have been seen as an act of defiance.
Mariupol fell in May 2022 after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, marking Russia's first major victory since its army failed to capture Kyiv and instead focused on southeastern Ukraine.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation and Europe (OSCE) said Russia's bombing of a maternity hospital in the city was a war crime. It is believed that in Mariupol, which before the war had a population of over 400,000 people, the most people killed in one city since the end of the Second World War.
Putin flew by helicopter to Mariupol for a "working tour", Russian news agencies reported, citing the Kremlin. He personally drove, as he toured several neighborhoods, stopping and talking to residents.
This is the closest to the front line that Putin has been since the beginning of the year-long war. He had never visited Donbas, controlled since 2014 by Russian-backed forces and annexed last September. Mariupol is part of the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which Russia has declared as its territory, but to this day it does not manage to fully control it.
While Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has made a number of trips to the battlefield to boost his troops' morale and talk strategy, Putin has largely remained in the Kremlin as he leads what Russia calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.
Kyiv and its allies say the invasion, now in its 13th month, is an imperialist land grab that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people in Ukraine.
Wow! Russian President Putin is in Mariupol, checking out the newly constructed buildings and talking to citizens!!— S.L. Kanthan (@Kanthan2030) March 19, 2023
Mariupol has a bright future as a part of Russia. It will once again become an industrial powerhouse and also a key hub in China’s Belt and Road Initiative! ????????????????????????… https://t.co/B6NbB2Y5UA pic.twitter.com/qqm2XSP2xZ
In the Nevsky district of Mariupol, Putin visited a family at their home, Russian media reported. This is a residential neighborhood built by the Russian military, with the first people moving in last September. Residents are returning "actively," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who accompanied Putin, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"The city center is badly damaged," Khusnullinadded. "We want to finish (the reconstruction of) the center by the end of the year, at least the facade part. The center is very beautiful."
"The head of state also inspected the coast of Mariupol in the area of the yacht club, the theater building, memorial places in the city," the Kremlin press office reported.
Russian media aired videos showing the Russian leader driving a car at night through a built-up area, as well as entering what the media said was the Philharmonic, restored in just three months.
Russian media reported on Sunday that Putin visited campaign headquarters in Rostov for the day and also met with the top commander of his military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Moscow's war in Ukraine.
The day before, March 18, Putin came to the opening of the Korsun Art School and Center in Sevastopol. Not counting the crossing of the Crimean bridge in December 2022 to demonstrate that it was now passable after it was damaged in an attack, this was Putin's first trip to Crimea since November 2021.
Ukraine war: Russia used cluster bombs, killed and injured in Kramatorsk
Two civilians were killed and 10 people injured in Russian strikes with cluster weapons in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, announced Pavlo Kirilenko, the regional governor of the Donetsk region, AFP reported.
A park, a funeral goods store and a dozen residential buildings, as well as two cars, were hit in the strikes. "Over a hundred countries have banned the use of cluster bombs, but Russia continues to use these weapons, which drop multiple small bombs and indiscriminately injure civilians," Kirilenko emphasized.
The Russian occupiers launched 11 missile and 16 air strikes on Ukraine during the day, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Russian Federation continued to use terror tactics against the civilian population. By shelling populated areas and critical infrastructure facilities, the enemy completely disregards the laws of war, the General Staff noted.
Four of the rocket strikes hit civilian infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia. 16 airstrikes and 99 rocket barrages by the invaders were recorded.
"The probability of new strikes on the entire territory of Ukraine remains high," warn the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Zelensky announced new military aid from NATO
The Ukrainian side will receive new military aid from NATO countries and their allies after this week's Ramstein-style meeting. This was announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“A regular Rammstein meeting was held. There are new defense packages from Canada, Germany, France, Denmark, Estonia," Zelensky said in a video message posted on his Telegram channel.
He also noted that Sweden and Poland have agreed on additional military aid to Ukraine. In particular, we are talking about ammunition and ammunition, tanks and artillery. Separately, he stressed that a "much-needed solution" had been reached with Sweden on Archers 155mm self-propelled artillery mounts, and there was also an agreement on MiGs from Slovakia.
Poland, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, the EU, the United States and many others continue to "strongly help" Ukraine, the president assured.
Kyiv imposed sanctions on Iranian and Syrian officials
For at least 60 days, the international deal allowing safe Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain was renewed. This is half of the planned period, as Russia warned that any further extension after mid-May would depend on the lifting of some Western sanctions. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the introduction of new sanctions.
The agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports was concluded in July, brokered by the UN and Turkey, and was extended in November. Turkish President Recep Erdogan was the first to announce its renewal, but did not specify what period it was for. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the agreement had been extended by 120 days. A little later, however, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow had agreed to an extension of only 60 days.
At the same time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky introduced by decree new sanctions against 300 individuals and more than 140 legal entities. Among them, this time, in addition to Russian, Syrian and Iranian representatives are included, such as Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as the commander in charge of the unmanned aerial vehicles of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
In his statement, Zelensky explained that the Syrian people have not received the appropriate international protection and this has led to a feeling of impunity in the Kremlin.
"Ukraine sanctions are part of global pressure against Russia. Anyone who produces weapons of terror, against Ukraine, who helps Russia fuel aggression, for example by supplying drones, those who support Russia's destruction of international law, they can only be marginals for the world. This applies not only to the aggression against the Ukrainians, but also to other aggressive Russian actions against the international order, including on the territory of Syria."
Germany will arrest Putin if he steps on its territory
Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) has announced that he will execute an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and detain him if he sets foot on German soil.
On Friday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the president of Russia, obliging all member states of the court, including Germany and Bulgaria, to arrest the wanted person in case of suspicion and transfer him to The Hague.
Bushmann told Bild am Sonntag: "I expect that the International Criminal Court will quickly contact Interpol and the treaty countries that created it and demand enforcement. Germany is then obliged to arrest President Putin if he enters German territory, and to hand him over to the International Criminal Court".
Unlike national law enforcement agencies, the ICC can also take action against heads of state, Bushman reminded, referring to the exception for presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers, which is made in customary international law.
The ICC is the court of last instance for serious international crimes. It was created under the Rome Statute signed in 1998. Russia has signed it but not ratified it. Its jurisdiction is not recognized by many countries, including the USA, China, India, Iran, Israel.
In a comment by the Russian ambassador in Berlin, Sergey Nechaev, he said: "The irresponsible statements of some German officials about their support and readiness to comply with the illegitimate and completely absurd decision of the International Criminal Court arouse extreme concern and show how far from reality they are in its desire to further escalate the conflict with Russia."
In Moscow, arrests are made after whistleblowing in the subway
A Muscovite was arrested for 14 days because one of the passengers on the subway saw an image on his phone that discredited the Russian army. This is reported by the Russian version of Free Europe. The observant passenger called the police.
40-year-old Yuri Samuilov was found guilty by a court in Moscow of distributing extremist materials. He was detained on the morning of March 17.
Collaborators of the law enforcement agencies examined his phone and drew up a report. What exactly the terrorist images were has not been reported.
In the conditions of war, espionage has become a common practice in Russia. The reasons for reporting to the authorities are different - conversations about Ukraine, listening to Ukrainian songs, statements about Russia's military operations, etc.
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