Putin also visited the port of Sevastopol, which is the main headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, just 24 hours after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him, accusing him of involvement in the alleged deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children during the conflict.
Putin has arrived in Mariupol in helicopter on Saturday and toured the city, sometimes driving aautoaccording to the state news agency Tass.
He spoke to local residents, visited various sites and heard a report on the reconstruction work in this devastated city.
Russia surrounded Mariupol at the start of its offensive last year and destroyed the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the city.
His stop in Mariupol followed an unannounced visit in Crimea on Saturday, in occasion of the ninth anniversary of its annexation. Putin has arrived in Sevastopol, the main port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, where he attended the opening ceremony of a children’s art school accompanied by local governor Mikhail Razvogayev, according to images broadcast by the Russia-1 public television channel.
Razvogaev said on the Telegram platform that Putin should have taken part in the opening of a children’s art school through video communication. “But Vladimir Vladimirovich came personally, himself.
Behind the wheel, why in such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol».
Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum not recognized by Kiev or the international community.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said before the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January which intended to recover Crimea, “our land” with weapons, while Moscow hesitated that “Crimea is Russian”, refusing to be the subject of negotiations in possible interviews pace .
Putin’s visit came after the International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant against him for the “deportation” of Ukrainian children.
Kiev says more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported in Russia since the conflict began in February 2022, many of which have been placed in institutions or foster families.
‘Exactly,’ ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told AFP when asked if Putin would be arrested if he set foot in one of those 123 countries.
The 70-year-old Russian leader has not commented on the arrest warrant, but the Kremlin rejected the decision, saying it was “null and void” because Russia is not a party to the International Criminal Court.
The decision by the court, which is based in The Hague, came before Chinese leader Xi Jinping traveled to Moscow today to sign deals described as the start of a new era of relations.
China, one of Russia’s key allies, has tried to position itself as a neutral side in the Ukrainian dispute, urging Moscow and Kiev to start negotiations.
But Western leaders have repeatedly criticized Beijing for failing to condemn the Russian offensive, accusing it of providing diplomatic cover for Moscow in its campaign.
The Guardian: The Biden administration is picking up on deportations of Russians
Yesterday a British newspaper revealed that the US administration has appealed against the decision to deport Russian citizens from the United States to their country. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that the decision was taken at the highest level in Washington, and was made evident by the announcement by the US Immigration and Customs Agency to continue the deportations in various countries, including Russia.
The newspaper added that the deportations of Russian citizens had begun in muted and in the spotlight, in clear reflection of the position taken by the US authorities a year ago with the launch of the special military operation in Ukraine.
According to the newspaper, a young Russian who arrived in the United States in an attempt to avoid a partial mobilization was subject to sudden deportation in Russia at the weekend.
Extension of the Ukrainian grain export agreement
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the two sides in war had agreed to extend a deal that allowed Ukraine, a major grain exporter, to resume its exports after Russian warships blockaded Black Sea ports.
However, controversy arose over the duration of the agreement.
While Ukraine’s infrastructure minister announced the extension of the deal for a period of 120 days, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Moscow had agreed to extend it for 60 days.
The deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 allowed safe passage for grain exports.
It had previously been extended by 120 days in November.
On the ground, fighting is currently concentrated in the eastern Donetsk region in Ukraine, in particular in the city of Bakhmut.
Two people were killed and 10 injured in Russian “cluster munition” attacks on Saturday afternoon in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, the city’s mayor said.
Agence France-Presse reporters heard about a dozen explosions at about the same time and saw smoke billowing in a park in the south of the city.
A woman died of her injuries, as reporters watched.
If he entered our lands
German Justice Minister: We will have to arrest the Russian president
German Justice Minister Marco Bushmann announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be arrested if he visited Germany.
The German newspaper “Die Zeit” quoted the statements of Minister Bushmann, who said in this regard: “I expect that the International Criminal Court will quickly contact Interpol and the participating countries and ask them to comply with this request, after which Germany will arrest President Putin”.
The minister added: “This will happen if Putin enters in German territory and will be handed over to the International Criminal Court”.
Bushmann went on to say he would meet the ICC’s requirements if “Putin sets foot on German soil,” because the country falls under the court’s jurisdiction.
For her part, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a post on his account on “Telegram”: “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, even from a legal point of view”.
“Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and has no obligations under it,” he added. Russia does not cooperate with this body and any detention “prescriptions” issued by the International Court of Justice would be legally invalid for us.
In turn, the Russian ambassador in Germany, Sergei Nechaev, announced yesterday that the position of the German government in The International Criminal Court’s memorandum on the “arrest” of Russian President Vladimir Putin raises concern and shows a willingness to further escalate the conflict with Moscow.
“Irresponsible statements by some German officials about their support and willingness to comply with the totally illegal and absurd decision of the International Criminal Court,” wrote the Russian ambassador, Nechaev.
The ambassador added: “These statements are very worrying and indicate how far from reality they are in their desire to further escalate the conflict with Russia.”
Moscow – Beijing
A partnership of an “unbalanced” economic relationship?
After being in largely isolated from Europe by its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has in largely shifted its economy to China, with the risk of being in an “unbalanced relationship” with Beijing is vulnerable.
Three weeks before the Kremlin intervention begins in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have hinted at an “unlimited” partnership between Russia and China. The message was: emerge as a counterweight to the West.
Since then, trade has intensified despite international sanctions against Russia and the departure of many foreign companies from its lands. Last year, bilateral trade reached $190 billion, according to China Customs, a record.
Similarly, the share of the yuan in currencies used in Russian foreign trade increased, from 0.5% to 16%, which led to a significant decrease in the share of the euro and the dollar in Russian exports (48 % Now). In terms of energy, which is the main source of exchange between them, Moscow and Beijing have also accelerated their rapprochement.
Institute economists of International Finance point out that “China and India have replaced the European Union as major export markets” for Russian oil, in how much they represented “in the fourth quarter of 2022, with Turkey, two-thirds of Russian crude oil exports.”
“It is very important that Russia is close to China, because Russia doesn’t have many commercial friends,” Elena Rabakovy, deputy chief economist at the Institute, told AFP. of international finance.
Sergey Tsyplakov, an expert on Russian-Chinese economic relations at the Higher School of Moscow-based Economics notes that within a year, “Chinese firms have seized the niches that Western firms have let Russia free.”
It is a view shared by Anna Kireva, a researcher at the MGIMO Institute for International Relations in Russia. “It was also necessary to find alternative sources of imports, especially in the field of machinery, electronics and various parts and components of cars and other vehicles,” she told AFP.
However, he adds, “most of the major Chinese companies well integrated in Western markets have chosen to stop their activities in Russia for fear of possible sanctions”.
Analyst Timothy Ash told AFP that “Putin wants a balanced relationship with China, like the twins, but that’s not the case.”
“Russia has no choice,” he says, but to turn to China. From him, Timur Umarov, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for Research, believes that Russia’s economic stability “depends on China”.
“It gives Beijing another tool, another way to influence Russia from within,” he says.
“There is no leader or follower in Russia-China relations,” presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters, referring to “two partners who trust each other and share in much the same goals”.