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Vladimir Putin in Mariupol
Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, visits the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of MariupolImage: Pool Photo via AP/picture alliance

Ukraine updates: Putin visits occupied city of Mariupol

March 19, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin toured the devastated city of Mariupol on his first visit to the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine's Donbass region. DW has the latest.


Russian President Vladimir Putin paid an unannounced visit to the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the Kremlin announced on Sunday. It was his first visit to Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine's Donbas region.

After his arrival by helicopter, he visited several locations in the city that Russian forces leveled to the ground and spoke with local residents, according to state news media.

The visit comes after Putin visited Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula's annexation from Ukraine, a move most of the world has condemned as illegal.

Russian media reported that Putin also met in Rostov with the top commander of his military operation in Ukraine, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, at the Rostov-on-Don command post in southern Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that President Vladimir Putin's surprise visit to Mariupol, which fell under Russian control last year, took place during the night "as befits a thief."

"As befits a thief, Putin visited Ukrainian Mariupol, under the cover of night. First, it is safer. Also, darkness allows him to highlight what he wants to show, and keeps the city his army completely destroyed and its few surviving inhabitants away from prying eyes," the ministry said on Twitter. 

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak also slammed the visit. "The criminal always returns to the crime scene... the murderer of thousands of Mariupol families came to admire the ruins of the city and (its) graves. Cynicism and lack of remorse," Podolyak said on Twitter. 

Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year. The fighting over Mariupol, in the Donetsk region, began in February and raged until Russia took the city's last defenders captive in May.

Mariupol - A story of resilience

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Sunday, March 19:

Justice minister: Germany is obliged to arrest Putin

The German and South African governments have both commented on the ICC arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin and what it would mean for their countries.  

Both governments said they were aware of their "legal obligation" to arrest the Russian leader should he set foot on his soil, without categorically stating they would do so.

German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said in a newspaper interview that he expected the ICC to contact signatory member states and ask them to enforce the warrant.

He said "Germany is then obliged to arrest President Putin and hand him over to the ICC if he enters German territory."

Meanwhile, South African government spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the government was "cognisant of our legal obligation."

Magwenya said the South African government would remain "engaged with various relevant stakeholders."

Putin had been expected to attend the 15th BRICS summit in South Africa in August, as he did in 2013. There has been no official confirmation of this however.

The South African government said it wanted to remain neutral regarding the war in Ukraine. 

In February South Africa's military along with Russia and China held joint naval drills, a move criticized by the US. 

South Africa's failure to arrest former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faced an ICC arrest warrant, on a 2015 visit prompted international criticism. 

Meanwhile the arrest warrant against Putin is comfortably the highest profile of its kind ever issued, making its implentation, at the very least, difficult. 

Russia is unable to achieve previously planned goals — UK

In the beginning of March, authorities in the Russian-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast published a decree that declared occupied Melitopol as the oblast capital, the British Ministry of Defence said in its daily update.

The Russian-installed head of the oblast, Evgeniy Balitskiy, said that this was a temporary measure until the city of Zaporizhzhia was controlled by Russia, according to an update.

Zaporizhzhia is one of the four oblasts President Putin claimed to have annexed as part of the Russian Federation on 30 September 2022.

However, Russia has never occupied Zaporizhzhia city, a major industrial centre of 700,000 people, which is approximately 35 kilometers from the current front line.

The quiet declaration of an alternative capital is likely tacit acknowledgement within the Russian system that its forces are highly unlikely to seize previously planned major objectives in the near future, the British ministry concluded.

Ukraine war propels Rheinmetall into the DAX index

German automotive and arms manufacturer, Rheinmetall, is set to join the DAX index of 40 leading shares on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, the company has seen its share price more than double.

Headquartered in Düsseldorf, Rheinmetall produces the cannon for the Leopard 2, a tank used by several European armies and to be delivered to Ukraine, and the Panzerhaubitze 2000, a long-range howitzer used by the Ukrainian military.

As European countries increase their military spending in response to the invasion, Rheinmetall predicts strong growth in 2023.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

The Czech Republic has mastered the largest immigration influx in its history — of Ukrainian refugees — to the advantage of the business sector. Many Ukrainians have legal jobs, despite nationalist narratives.

dh,ar/jcg (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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