According to Russian state media, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the city of Mariupol, Donetsk, last night, marking his first known trip to Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory. Tass news reported that Putin arrived to the city by helicopter and drove himself around to talk to locals under the cover of night.
— Arthur Morgan (@ArthurM40330824) March 19, 2023
Geolocated footage (around 47.1030442, 37.5057933) confirms that the Russian president was in Mariupol, although it remains unclear if he arrived last night as reported by Russian officials. In the footage above, Putin can be seen speaking to residents of a newly constructed residential block located in the far western side of the city. The block, which was constructed in a previously open field area, does not appear in recent satellite imagery through Google maps due to how new it is. Geolocation was possible, however, by looking at the recent footage and comparing it to promotional footage for the residential block, as shown here.
Russian media also reported that the President visited the city’s philharmonic hall, which had previously been used as a jail and court for Ukrainian POWs after the city was taken over.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense responded to the visit by tweeting out “??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.” Much of the city’s residential areas and infrastructure were damaged or destroyed amid heavy fighting to take the city.
The Kremlin says Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol, the Ukrainian city Russia’s invading army razed to the ground, overnight by helicopter.
This is a show of defiance after the ICC arrest warrant – Ukraine says 1,000 of the 14,700 children Russia abducted are from Mariupol. pic.twitter.com/vtyuTbEtY1
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 19, 2023
Mariupol was fully captured by Russian forces in May following the surrender of Ukrainian holdouts at the Azovstal plant in the southeast side of the city. The complete fall of the city marked a major and symbolic victory for the Russians, who touted the defeat of the Azov battalion and control of one of Ukraine’s most vital ports. Control of the city also marked the creation of their much desired land bridge to Crimea and the complete cut off Ukranian access to the Azov sea. Such a landbridge has been talked about in Russian policy and strategy for years now, as it would allow for strategic and economic dominance over the area while simultaneously striking blows to Ukraine’s own economy. Mariupol’s port can be used to open up maritime exports for Donbas steel and mining industries and expand road and railways from Donbas to Crimea.