- Videos released by Russia’s state media show Putin driving at night in the city of Mariupol.
- The clip was “not quite the optics of confident control,” one journalist said on Twitter.
- Putin’s late-night trip to the occupied city comes after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest.
Footage released on Sunday by Russia’s Kremlin Pool shows Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the bombed-out city of Mariupol in the middle of the night, just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes.
In a thread on Twitter, Max Seddon, the Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, analyzed the footage that appeared to show Putin driving himself down the streets of the occupied city in south-east Ukraine that Russian president’s military helped destroyed. It was a “supposedly spontaneous” visit to the area “in the dead of night,” wrote Seddon.
—max seddon (@maxseddon) March 19, 2023
In a post showing a video released of Putin, Seddon points out that the Russian president is “apparently driving around Mariupol semi-incognito.”
Another image appears to show Putin visiting a local apartment, “note how…the people living in this apartment laid out a whole table of food for Putin, like he’s Santa Claus and just shows up unannounced,” Seddon wrote, questioning the potentially prearranged nature to the stops along his tour of the besieged city.
—Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 19, 2023
Yaroslav Trofimov, the chief foreign affairs correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, noted on Twitter, that Putin’s visit “at night, in darkness, driving down empty streets,” was “not quite the optics of confident control.”
In the video of Putin’s late-night drive, he speaks to Marat Khusnullin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, who tells him about plans to rebuild the city. Putin is told he sees the city without any propaganda or cherry-picking, according to the caption of the Russian state media telegram post.
Putin’s first-ever visit to the Donbas region also included encounters with locals who said they were “praying for him” and a tour of the restored Mariupol philharmonic, state media videos show.
Putin’s tour of occupied Ukraine began with a trip to Crimea, which was timed to align with the 9th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the region in 2014, Tausi Insider previously reported.
The siege of Mariupol began on 24 February 2022 and lasted until 20 May as part of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Munitions have left their mark on nearly every building across ithe city’s 64 square miles, reported The Times of Israel.