March 20, 2023

A Visit Amid Tensions


A Visit Amid Tensions
Vladimir Putin, meeting with permanent members of the Security Council. Russian President, Wikimedia Commons.

This past weekend, Russian President and indicted war criminal Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol in what state the news agency TASS has described as his first visit to the Donbas region. The visit took place at between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The Kremlin press service described the trip as "a working visit... to inspect a number of locations in the city and talk to local residents." Putin traveled by helicopter into Mariupol before driving around the city. He was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who prepared a report on reconstruction work being carried out in and around the ruined city.

The Kremlin press release said that Putin "toured the coastline near a yacht club, and visited the theater and historic sites," and spoke with residents of the Nevskoye Microdistrict, a reconstruction project that the BBC describes as a "Russia-built compound in outer Mariupol."

Mariupol's Ukrainian Mayor-in-exile, Vadym Boychenko, commented on Putin's visit, telling the BBC that "Mariupol is a symbolic place for Putin, because of the fury he inflicted on the city [...] No other city was destroyed like that." The BBC noted that the Mariupol theater was the site of a major Russian bombing while being used as a civilian refuge, resulting in at least 300 civilian deaths.

Meduza reported the reactions of inhabitants of Mariupol to Putin's visit, shared via the Telegram channel Mozhem Ob'yasnit ["We can explain"]. Residents expressed deep mistrust in the visit, with one commenting that "[e]verything is done for the picture on TV, for people in Russia to watch."

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