Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol to tout rebuilding efforts in the metropolis he destroyed. It’s unclear when exactly he made his appearance because Russian state media released videos of the visit but did not indicate the date.
The trip comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the strongman. The move is largely symbolic, as neither the Russians nor the Americans recognize the ICC, but it’s seen as a serious blow to Putin’s already-tarnished image around the world.
Putin drove himself around the city during the excursion and interacted with “regular citizens” (probably actors, or residents who were pretending to be happy in order to avoid execution) to talk about how great things were going. Interestingly, all the footage occurs at night, perhaps as a way to obscure the horrific damage the city took during vicious bombing attacks.
Here he plays “man of the people” as he chats with apartment-living residents and even tours their dwellings:
“We were left with nothing, …but thank you for the victory… this is a small piece of paradise here” this is how “the residents” of Mariupol meet putin, who killed their relatives, destroyed houses and took away normal life.
Russian propaganda – a bunch of idiots. pic.twitter.com/oTcgMKRMin
— Maria Drutska 🇺🇦 (@maria_drutska) March 19, 2023
It’s highly unlikely that all Mariupol residents are thrilled to see Vlad because the city endured some of the worst violence since the Russian invasion began over a year ago. Russian forces attacked a maternity ward and even bombed a theater where non-combatants were known to be hiding:
Today, 16 March, marks one year since the tragedy in Mariupol drama theater. About 600 people died that day.
It is one of those horrible days that will forever remain in my memory.
Eternal memory to all who were killed.
Russia will be punished.
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 16, 2023
The Russians are now patting themselves on the back because they’re going to build a new theater—but they destroyed the old one in the first place.
I regularly criticize CNN, but it’s for their biased national reporting; their international reporting is often quite excellent. Correspondent Ivan Watson emotionally describes what the residents of Mariupol went through:
I sat at the edge of Ukrainian controlled territory [in 2022] and watched as thousands of residents of that city fled in battered cars that were pockmarked with shrapnel from the Russian bombardment.
I heard horrific stories about people hiding in their basements.
Drinking rainwater from gutters, burying their neighbors in the front yards of their apartment buildings, and the terror that they had when they fled that city after it had been encircled by Russian troops and shelled and bombarded day and night for months, until finally they captured the city in May.
— Glasnost Gone (@GlasnostGone) March 5, 2023
OK, so the irony now of Vladimir Putin and Russian officials saying, hey, we’re coming here to build a new city, in fact, announcing that they’re going to build a new drama theater there…when it was the Russians that bombed a drama theatre at the center of Mariupol that hundreds and hundreds of residents had been hiding in, with giant signs saying “civilians” and and “don’t bomb us.”
Basically it’s very striking to see an attempt at basically proving that Russia’s going to rebuild something that it smashed in the very first place.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, slammed the Russian president’s victory lap on Twitter:
The criminal always returns to the crime scene. As the civilized world announces the arrest of the “war director” (VV Putin) in case of crossing its borders, the murderer of thousands of Mariupol families came to admire the ruins of the city & graves. Cynicism & lack of remorse.
Putin’s true cruelty was revealed once again with this visit as he rubbed salt in the wounds of the people he terrorized. This picture sums up the situation better than my words could:
Another dictator also visited Mariupol once. We know how his story ended.
📷: Hitler visiting Army Group South HQ at Mariupol, Ukraine in December 1941.
"Many historians and contemporaries claim that it was here that Hitler first realized the war was lost" – WarHistoryOnline pic.twitter.com/jcWUjyxLzG
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 19, 2023