Ukraine Latest: Putin Visits Mariupol; Grain Deal Renews

Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his top battlefield commanders, spoke via video link with top US military and national security officials.

A member of the Russian navy disembarks the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov in South Africa on Feb. 22.
A member of the Russian navy disembarks the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov in South Africa on Feb. 22.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unexpected visit to the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol over the weekend after an unannounced trip to Crimea, according to state media coverage.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin, citing his alleged role in unlawfully deporting thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. The Kremlin, which doesn’t recognize the court’s judgments, termed the move unacceptable. US President Joe Biden called the arrest warrant for Putin “justified.”  

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Key Developments

  • Putin Makes Surprise Crimea Visit on Annexation Anniversary 
  • Ukraine Grain Deal Renewed, Clearing Way for Continued Exports
  • ADM Restarts Oilseed Crushing Plant in Ukraine After a Year
  • Xi to Visit Russia for First Time Since Putin Invaded Ukraine
  • NATO Edges Closer to Expansion as Turkey Backs Finland’s Bid

(All times CET)  

Putin Makes Surprise Visit to Occupied Ukrainian City (6 a.m.)

Putin flew into Mariupol in Donetsk province, a Russian-occupied area of Ukraine, in the surprise visit following his tour to Crimea this weekend, Tass reported on Sunday.

Putin reviewed construction and restoration work in Mariupol, the site of one of the bloodiest battles since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Tass said. The site of one of the bloodiest battles since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. 

Ukrainian Premier Announces Cabinet Changes (5 p.m.)

Oleksandr Kamyshin, former chief executive officer of the national railway company Ukrzaliznytsia, will be appointed next week as Ukraine’s minister for strategic industries, said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. 

All top officials visiting Kyiv use Ukrzaliznytsia to get to the capital from Poland, since Ukraine’s passenger airports have been closed since the first day of Russia’s invasion. 

Shmyhal, who met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party on Saturday to discuss his cabinet’s changes, also said Ukraine’s minister of education will be replaced.

Ukraine Grain Export Deal Renewed; Duration in Debate (3:30 p.m.)

The agreement allowing Ukraine to export grains and other crops out of key Black Sea ports was renewed hours before it was due to expire. 

While Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the pact, originally brokered last summer by Turkey and the UN, has been extended for four months, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said the agreement was for 60 days. 

Read more: Ukraine Grain Deal Renewed, Clearing Way for Continued Exports

Putin Flies to Crimea for ‘Reunification’ Event, Russian TV Says (2 p.m.)

Vladimir Putin made an unannounced visit to Sevastopol in Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s 2014 annexation by Russia, according to a video posted on state television. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said on Friday that the Russian leader planned to take part in celebrations via video link.   

Russia, China, Iran Wrap Up Naval Exercises in Arabian Sea (12:43 p.m.)

Russia, China and Iran have completed a fourth round of naval exercises in the Arabian Sea, Interfax reported, citing Russia’s defense ministry. Iranian media reported that the drills, dubbed “Marine Security Belt 2023,” included nighttime shooting operations against aerial targets. 

The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov and the Chinese destroyer Nanjing took part in exercises, held on Thursday and Friday. The war games follow others last month involving Russia, China and South Africa, where the Gorshkov, which is fitted with hypersonic Zircon missiles, was also deployed.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping next week is making his first state visit to Russia since it invaded Ukraine, while there are concerns that China may start supplying military aid to Moscow.

A member of the Russian navy disembarks the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov in South Africa on Feb. 22.Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
A member of the Russian navy disembarks the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov in South Africa on Feb. 22.Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Germany, Japan Welcome Putin Arrest Warrant (11:30 a.m.)

The leaders of Japan and Germany jointly welcomed the decision by the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for his alleged role in unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

“No one is above the law. This is also an important principle of international law,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. 

Kishida said his government was following the investigation “with great interest.” 

US, Ukrainian Officials Discuss Battlefield, Kyiv’s Military Needs

Top US officials including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a video meeting with Ukraine’s president and his chief of staff, defense minister and top military commanders.  

The participants, who also included Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces and top ground and air defense commanders, discussed Kyiv military needs, including weapons and ammunition, chief of staff Andriy Yermak on Telegram.  

The officials held detailed discussions on the situation on the battlefield, including the most difficult combat operations, and about the urgent needs of Ukrainian army, Yermak said. 

Russia Launches Drone Attack Overnight (8 a.m.)

Air-raid sirens sounded widely across Ukraine on Saturday morning. 

Russia launched an attack with 16 Iranian-made single-use drones on Friday night from the Bryansk region and the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov, Ukraine’s air defence force said on Saturday. Kyiv’s forces shot down 11 drones in the central, eastern and western regions.

Two drones “significantly” damaged critical infrastructure in Novomoskovsk in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, regional head Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram. Three drones hit buildings near Yavoriv in the far western Lviv region. Yavoriv is 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Polish border and close to Ukraine’s largest military training facility.  

Biden Says Putin’s Arrest Warrant From ICC is ‘Justified’ (8 a.m.)

President Joe Biden said Friday the International Criminal Court arrest warrant, accusing Russia’s Vladimir Putin of war crimes, was “justified.” 

Neither the US nor Russia has signed onto the ICC’s Rome Statute, so the jurisdiction of the Hague-based court is limited in both countries. 

“He clearly committed war crimes,” Biden said outside the White House on Friday night. He called the warrant “justified,” adding that although the US doesn’t recognize the court, “I think it makes a very strong point.” 

Russia Likely to Widen Conscription Efforts, UK Says (7 a.m.)

Russia may be “preparing to facilitate wider military conscription to resource its military requirements,” the UK defense ministry said in a Twitter update. 

The UK noted that Russia’s Duma introduced a bill to change the age bracket of men eligible for conscription to 21 to 30 years, against the current 18 to 27. If passed, the measure would come into effect in January. 

“Many 18 to 21 year old men currently claim exemption from the draft due to being in higher education. The authorities are highly likely changing the age bracket to bolster troop numbers by ensuring that students are eventually forced to serve,” the UK said.  

ADM Restarts Ukraine Oilseed Crushing Plant (11 p.m.)

US commodities firm Archer-Daniels-Midland has reopened its oilseed crushing plant in southern Ukraine, in another sign that crop trading companies are feeling more optimistic about the outlook for shipments out of the country. 

The Chornomorsk plant has recently resumed operations, a spokeswoman for ADM said Friday. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the company to suspend its operations last year.

Read more: ADM Restarts Oilseed Crushing Plant in Ukraine After a Year  

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