Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise trip to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Saturday, the first visit by a Russian leader to the country’s breakaway Donetsk region since it was occupied by Moscow-backed separatists in 2014.
Putin’s trip to the city of 500,000 people, located in the pro-Russian Donetsk region, came after a cease-fire between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists took effect on July 27, marking the start of a new round of peace negotiations.
The visit was also seen as a sign of Putin’s support for the separatists, who control much of the Donetsk region. Putin’s motorcade was seen driving through the city, where he met with local officials and visited a local church.
Putin also met with the representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. During the meeting, Putin said that he was ready to work with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to resolve the conflict between the two sides.