A day after he was charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defiant midnight propaganda tour of Mariupol drew scathing criticism from Ukraine leaders, who noted “a criminal always returns to the crime scene.”
Russian state media cherry picked positive reaction to the 70-year-old dictator’s visit to the decimated port city, showing Putin palling around with rehoused residents in his first trip to the frontlines of his country’s 13-month long unprovoked invasion.
Critics accused Putin of visiting Mariupol under the cover of darkness to avoid confronting the full scope of the obliteration in the fully occupied eastern city, where about 90% of its buildings were destroyed in the first months of the war. Ukraine estimates 20,000 residents were killed and 70% of the city’s population was forced to flee amid Russia’s violent land grab.
“The criminal always returns to the crime scene,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s aide Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
His sentiments were echoed by Mariupol’s exiled mayor Vadym Boychenko.
“He has come in person to see what he has done,” Boychenko told the BBC. “He’s come to see what he will be punished for.”
On the ground, a far rosier picture was painted by Kremlin propaganda, as Putin was seen driving around the city while being briefed on rebuilding efforts by Russian officials.
“Do you live here? Do you like it?” Putin was filmed asking people.
“Very much. It’s a little piece of heaven that we have here now,” a woman replied, as she clasped her hands and thanked Putin for “the victory.”
“We need to start getting to know each other better,” Putin told a group of stunned residents, according to CNN.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin accompanied Putin on his spontaneous tour of the bombed out former European industrial center.
“The downtown has been badly damaged,” Khusnullin said. “We want to finish (reconstruction) of the center by the end of the year, at least the façade part. The center is very beautiful.”
The duo also spoke of plans to build a new hospital to replace the children’s and maternity hospital bombed while patients and workers were inside.
“There will be an ambulance, and all the most modern laboratories will be there,” Khusnullin said, according to the report.
“Everything will be fine,” Putin responds.
Putin’s defiant visit came as his staff said the arrest warrant issued by the ICC for allegedly abducting and deporting children and other Ukrainians to Russia was “null and void” and “outrageous and unacceptable.”
The May bombing of a Mariupol theater that housed sheltering families, killing hundreds, was also tantamount to a war crime, human rights groups have said.
Putin was subject to arrest if he stepped foot in any of the 123 countries that have signed off on the statute of The Hauge’s court.
The strongman traveled to Mariupol in the illegally annexed Donetsk region by helicopter after visiting Crimea on the ninth anniversary of its occupation by Russia, according to state media.
With Post wires
By: Ny Post