Russian President Vladimir Putin’s much-anticipated visit to the Crimean Peninsula and the port city of Mariupol in Ukraine’s Donbas region on Friday sent a signal to the West that he has no intention of scaling back his support for the Ukraine-Russia war.
The visit, which was the first by a Russian leader since the conflict erupted in 2014, was met with condemnation from the German government, which warned that any of its citizens who facilitated Putin’s trip would be detained upon arrival in Germany.
The German Foreign Ministry’s assertion that anyone who assisted in Putin’s visit could face legal repercussions under international law was a clear indication of the West’s continued opposition to Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine. The United States, too, has imposed economic sanctions against Russia in response to its role in the war.
Putin, however, maintained that he was in Crimea to bolster the region’s ties with Moscow, while also expressing his admiration for the bravery of the Russian-backed separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.
His visit came amid reports that the number of civilian casualties in the war has risen significantly in recent weeks, with the United Nations estimating that over 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict began.
The Russian leader’s trip to Crimea and Mariupol is likely to further aggravate tensions between Moscow and the West, which has accused the Kremlin of stoking the conflict in Ukraine and violating international law.
The German government’s decision to threaten legal action against anyone who aided in Putin’s visit is an indication of the deep divisions between the two sides over the war.
By making a high-profile visit to Crimea and Mariupol, Putin has demonstrated that he remains firmly committed to supporting the separatist forces in Ukraine’s east, and that the West’s condemnation of the conflict will not deter him from doing so.