Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine on Friday, a city that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russian occupation.
It was Putin’s first visit to the area since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and began a proxy war in eastern Ukraine. Mariupol has been at the center of the conflict, with the city trading hands between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatist forces multiple times since the war began.
During his visit, Putin praised the city for its resilience despite the conflict and for its economic progress since the war began. He said that the city was “an example of how difficult times can be overcome and how people can come together to build a better future.”
However, his visit was met with anger and criticism from many Ukrainians, who see it as a provocation and a sign that Russia is still intent on occupying Ukrainian territory.
Putin’s visit is likely to cause further tension between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the Western nations that support Ukraine. It is a sign that Russia is not interested in backing down from its aggressive stance in the region, and that it continues to support the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.