The Kremlin reported the apparent provocation just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol.
Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter and toured various districts of the city by car, according to a statement from the Kremlin on Sunday.
It said the Russian leader had stopped to talk to residents of the city’s Nevsky neighbourhood, and claimed he had been invited to their homes. It did not specify when the visit was made.
News of the visit came after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on Friday for Putin and Russian official Maria Livova-Belova for allegedly planning to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
The visit could be seen as particularly provocative for Ukrainians, as Mariupol has long been a symbol of resistance and has seen some of the fiercest fighting since Russia launched its invasion last year.
Putin also inspected the coastline of Mariupol, visiting a yacht club and theater complex, the Kremlin said.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Kusnulin detailed Putin’s “undergoing construction and restoration work” in the city.
The Kremlin added that Putin held the meeting at the special military operations command post in Rostov-on-Don.
The statement went on to say that Putin was briefed by the Chief of the General Staff, First Deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov, and some military leaders.
Mariupol is a port city on the coast of the Sea of Azov in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which has been under direct Russian control since May 2022.
It was in Mariupol that Russian forces carried out some of their most notorious attacks, including a raid on a maternity ward last March and a bombing of a theater that forced hundreds of civilians to seek refuge.
During weeks of relentless Russian attacks last year, Mariupol became a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance. Famously, even though most of the city had fallen, its defenders held out at the Azovstal Iron Works for weeks until the stronghold finally fell.
Defense analysts previously told CNN that Russian forces were trying to flatten Mariupol to make the city “easier to control.”
Of the 450,000 people who lived in the city before the war, more than a third have left.