Putin visits Mariupol in first trip to fallen city
Vladimir Putin has made a defiant visit to Mariupol where he brazenly praised ‘reconstruction’ works of the city which he bombed to a shell of its former self, it was reported today.
It is the Russian president’s first trip to the Ukrainian territory, which Moscow illegally annexed in September, since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict in February last year.
Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter and then drove himself around the city’s ‘memorial sites,’ concert hall and coastline, the Russian reports said, without specifying exactly when the visit took place. They said Putin also met with local residents in the city’s Nevskyi district.
Speaking to the state RIA agency Sunday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin made clear that Russia was in Mariupol to stay. He said the government hoped to finish the reconstruction of its blasted downtown by the end of the year.
‘People have started to return. When they saw that reconstruction is under way, people started actively returning,’ Khusnulin told RIA.
When Moscow fully captured the city in May, an estimated 100,000 people remained out of a prewar population of 450,000. Many were trapped without food, water, heat or electricity. Relentless bombardment left rows upon rows of shattered or hollowed-out buildings.
Mariupol’s plight first came into focus with a Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital on March 9 last year, less than two weeks after Russian troops moved into Ukraine. A week later, about 300 people were reported killed in the bombing of a theater that was serving as the city’s largest bomb shelter. Evidence obtained by the AP last spring suggested that the real death toll could be closer to 600.
A small group of Ukrainian fighters held out for 83 days in the sprawling Azovstal steel works in eastern Mariupol before surrendering, their dogged defense tying down Russian forces and coming to symbolize Ukrainian tenacity in the face of Moscow’s aggression.
Source of data and images: dailymail