Putin visits Donbas for first time since war

Putin visits Donbas for first time since war

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol on Sunday, Russian state media reported on Sunday in what would be the Kremlin leader's first trip to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine's Donbas region since the start of the war.

Putin visited Crimea on Saturday after he travelled to Crimea on Saturday in an unannounced visit to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, and just two days after the International Criminal Court ICC issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader.

Mariupol fell to Russia in May after one of the war's longest and bloodiest battles, becoming Russia's first major victory after it failed to capture Kyiv and focused instead on southeastern Ukraine.

Russian new agencies reported that Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter. It is the closest to the frontlines that Putin has been since the year-long war. Putin drove a car around several districts of the city, making stops and talking to residents.

After weeks of fighting, Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, was reduced to a smouldering shell. The Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe OSCE said Russia's early bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a war crime.