At least three civilians were killed and 19 others injured by Russian shelling in the previous 24 hours. The deaths were in the eastern Donetsk region during fierce battles for control of the city of Bakhmut. Despite these losses, Ukrainian troops are holding the line near Bakhmut, and the enemy’s plan to occupy the city is foundering. However, taking Bakhmut would give the Kremlin a battlefield victory after months of setbacks and could pave the way for Russia to threaten other Ukrainian strongholds in the region, including Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. In another incident, Russian forces shelled a house in Bilozerka, a suburb west of the southern city of Kherson, and a woman who was pulled from the rubble was hospitalized. The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has resulted in numerous casualties, with civilians often bearing the brunt of the violence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Mariupol, a port city that Moscow illegally annexed in September. This is Putin’s first trip to Ukrainian territory since the annexation, and it is seen as a show of defiance after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges. Putin arrived in Mariupol after visiting Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of its annexation from Ukraine. He was shown visiting an art school and a children’s center, as well as chatting with Mariupol residents.
Mariupol became a worldwide symbol of resistance when Ukrainian forces held out in a steel mill there for almost three months before Moscow took control of it in May. Much of the city was destroyed by Russian shelling. Putin has not commented on the arrest warrant, which has deepened his international isolation despite the unlikelihood of him facing trial anytime soon. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the authority of the ICC, has dismissed its move as “legally null and void.”
Putin’s trip came ahead of a planned visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, expected to provide a major diplomatic boost to Putin in his confrontation with the West. After his visit to Mariupol, Putin met with Russian military leaders and troops at a command post in Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian city. He conferred with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of the Russian military operations in Ukraine.
The trip was unannounced, and Putin intended to “inspect the work of the (command) post in its ordinary mode of operation,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and then drove himself around the city’s “memorial sites,” concert hall, and coastline, Russian news reports said. The state Rossiya 24 channel showed Putin being shown around an apartment in a newly built residential complex and chatting with locals outside.
Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin confirmed that Russia intends to remain in Mariupol, a port city that Moscow illegally annexed in September, and aims to complete the reconstruction of its devastated downtown by year-end. Khusnullin added that people have started returning to Mariupol as reconstruction is underway. In contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Mykhailo Podolyak, criticized Putin’s trip to Mariupol, stating that he came to admire the ruins of the city and mass graves of thousands of Mariupol families that he is responsible for killing.
Mariupol was a city of about 450,000 people before the war, and when Moscow fully captured the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained. Many were trapped without food, water, heat, or electricity, and relentless bombardment left rows of shattered or hollowed-out buildings. The Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital on March 9, 2022, and the bombing of a theater a week later killed about 300 people, according to reports. Evidence obtained by The Associated Press suggested the real death toll could be closer to 600. A small group of Ukrainian fighters held out for 83 days in the sprawling Azovstal steel works in eastern Mariupol before surrendering.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and moved in September to officially claim four regions in Ukraine’s south and east as Russian territory. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest on war crimes charges, including the abductions of children from Ukraine, and U.N. investigators said there was evidence of the forced transfer of “hundreds” of Ukrainian children to Russia. Over 16,000 children have been deported to Russian-controlled territories or Russia itself, many of them from Mariupol, according to Ukrainian government figures. Despite the arrest warrant, the chances of Putin facing trial are slim because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals.
In conclusion, Putin’s visit to Mariupol and Russia’s intention to stay there have drawn criticism from Ukrainian officials. Despite the destruction caused by the war, people have started returning to the city, and Russia aims to complete the reconstruction of its devastated downtown by year-end. Mariupol remains a symbol of resistance, with a small group of Ukrainian fighters holding out for 83 days in the Azovstal steel works.
According to Ukrainian officials, at least three civilians were killed and 19 others injured by Russian shelling in the previous 24 hours, with the deaths occurring in the eastern Donetsk region during fierce battles for control of the city of Bakhmut. Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko reported the casualties on Ukrainian TV. In addition, a 51-year-old woman was fighting for her life after being hit by shrapnel as Russian troops fired on the border town of Dvorichna, according to Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov.
Despite these losses, top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak stated that Ukrainian troops are holding the line near Bakhmut, and the enemy’s plan to occupy the city is foundering. The spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, Serhii Cherevaty, added that Russian troops are “tactically unable to complete” Bakhmut’s capture, and that Ukrainian defenses are “bleeding the enemy, breaking his fighting spirit.” However, taking Bakhmut would give the Kremlin a battlefield victory after months of setbacks and could pave the way for Russia to threaten other Ukrainian strongholds in the region, including Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
In another incident, Russian forces shelled a house in Bilozerka, a suburb west of the southern city of Kherson, and a woman who was pulled from the rubble was hospitalized, according to the Kherson regional military administration. The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has resulted in numerous casualties, with civilians often bearing the brunt of the violence.
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