Russian media reports said that Vladimir Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

The president took what state media described as a “business trip” to the port city, which he annexed in September last year, afterward Russia Invade Ukraine.

Russian state news agency TASS, citing the Kremlin, reported that Putin, who arrived by helicopter, traveled around several areas of the city, stopping and talking with residents.

It is believed that this is his first trip to the Ukrainian lands that Russia has occupied since its invasion last year.

The visit follows widespread condemnation annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhia regions in September.

The visit also comes Putin visited Crimea on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula From Ukraine in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozaev visit the Children's Art and Beauty Center, part of the Chersonesos Taureka Historical and Archaeological Park in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday, March 18, 2023. Putin traveled to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Sea Peninsula Black from Ukraine.  (Photo of a gathering of the Kremlin press service from Sputnik, via AP)
Mr. Putin, right, and Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvogayev, during his visit to Crimea on Saturday

Most of the world considers Russia’s annexation illegal, while Ukraine has said it will fight to recover the territories.

MariupolA strategically important port city located in the Donetsk region and by the Sea of ​​Azov, it was the site of some of the fiercest fighting in the early part of the war.

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Ukrainian forces holed up in the city’s Azovstal steel plant for a last stand defense, which ended in surrender in May after a three-month siege by Russia of the facility.

A view shows the destruction of the Azovstal steel plant during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Mariupol, Russian-controlled Ukraine, November 16, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko
Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol

More than 2,500 buildings were damaged in the siege of Mariupol – almost half of everything that was standing in the city.

Sky News reported in February how Russia was rebuilding the city in its own image Since its takeover, including the conversion of the ruined steelworks, once one of the largest mining plants in Europe, into a “technical and environmental park”.

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Mariupol: Model City of New Russia

Read our report from April 2022: How the Azovstal steel mills became the last outpost in the brutal battle for Mariupol

Along with the visit, Russian media reported that Putin met with the top leadership of his military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

The meeting is said to have taken place at a command center in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia, near the Ukrainian border, according to TASS.

On Saturday, the Russian president made the 1,132-mile plane trip from Moscow to Sevastopol — the largest city in Crimea — a day after the International Criminal Court issued a ruling. An arrest warrant against him.

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Vladimir Putin visits Crimea

The court says he is responsible for the kidnapping of hundreds of Ukrainian children since the full Russian invasion of the country began in February last year.

In Crimea, he was entertained by Mikhail Razvozayev—the Russian governor of Sevastopol—before visiting an art school and children’s centre.

Putin’s remarks were not broadcast by state media, but as of Friday, he was speaking about the importance of holding on to Crimea.

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“It is clear that security issues take top priority now for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said.

We will do everything we can to fend off any threats.”

Putin has not publicly commented on the ICC arrest warrant, but his spokesperson called it “null and void” on Friday.

Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the court, which is based in The Hague.

It also does not turn its citizens in to face court justice, which means Putin is unlikely to face trial there.

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