(CNN) Vladimir Putin visited Russian-occupied Mariupol in an apparently defiant move reported by the Kremlin days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him.
Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter and toured the city’s districts by car, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin on Sunday.
The Russian leader claimed to have stopped to talk to residents of the city’s Nevsky district and was invited to their homes.
News of the visit comes after the ICC issued arrest warrants on Friday for Putin and senior Russian official Maria Lviva Belova over alleged plots to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
Mariupol has long been a symbol of resistance and has witnessed some of the fiercest fighting since Russia launched its invasion last year, so the visit is likely to be seen as particularly provocative by Ukrainians.
According to the Kremlin, Putin also surveyed the Mariupol coastline and visited a yacht club and a theater building.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Kusnulin told Putin in detail about “ongoing construction and restoration work” in the city.
The Kremlin added that Putin held a meeting at the special military operations command post in Rostov-on-Don.
Putin has heard reports from First Deputy Minister of Defense Valery Gerasimov and many military leaders, the statement continued.
Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, is located in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, and has been under direct Russian control since May 2022.
In Mariupol, Russian forces carried out some of the most notorious attacks, including an attack on a maternity ward last March and a bombing of a theater that forced hundreds of civilians to flee.
Mariupol became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance during weeks of persistent Russian attacks last year. Famously, even when most of the city fell, the defenders held out at the Azokhstan Ironworks for weeks before the fortress finally fell.
A defense analyst previously told CNN that the Russian military tried to level the city of Mariupol to make it “easier to control.”
Of the 450,000 people who lived in the city before the war, more than a third have already left.