Putin makes surprise visit to Donbass
Russsian President Vladimir Putin has made an unannounced “working trip” to Mariupol. The surprise visit is the first time Putin has visited the Donbass region, since it de facto broke away from Ukraine nine years ago.
The Azov Sea port city was liberated by Russian forces last spring during the military operation in Ukraine, and joined Russia as part of the Donetsk People’s Republic following a September referendum.
Putin arrived in Mariupol by helicopter, accompanied by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, multiple news agencies including TASS and RIA Novosti reported on Sunday morning, citing the Kremlin’s press service.
The president visited several districts of the city to inspect the progress of restoration efforts, including the construction of “new residential districts, social and educational facilities, housing and communal services infrastructure, medical institutions.” He also toured the “coastline in the area of the yacht club, theater,” as well as other “memorable places” in the city.
Putin also drove through the streets of Mariupol to inspect the facilities, while taking time to speak with residents.
On Saturday, the Russian president was in Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia, after it overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in a referendum following a Western-backed coup in Kiev in 2014.
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Putin's visit to Mariupol, which represents arguably Russia's most significant triumph in the year-long military operation, was unexpected.