Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Mariupol, Russian-controlled Ukraine, in this still image taken from a Kremlin handout video released on March 19, 2023.
Vladimir Putin’s overnight drive around the destroyed city of Mariupol was “laughable”, according to the UK’s former Nato representative.
The Russian president, who led the charge to invade Ukraine last February, undertook a bizarre trip around a city which has been under Russian occupation since May 2022 following a brutal siege.
Mariupol, in the Donbas region, is thought to still be significantly damaged following the months of fighting between the two sides, was briefly the focal point for the war as local Ukrainians refused to surrender.
But, in the clips shared by the Kremlin, Ukrainian locals appear to delight in Putin’s unannounced appearance and the buildings he visits seem to have been restored.
Lord Ricketts, though, was not so convinced.
As the UK’s former permanent representative to Nato, he told Sky News: “It was pretty laughable really.
“He had to go in the dead of night, nobody around, driving around deserted streets, you couldn’t see the extent of the damage and the desolation in Mariupol.
“So it was a pretty empty propaganda exercise which won’t convince many people outside of Russia.”
He suggested it was for a domestic audience, a bid to show that Russia has got something out of the destruction of the city and ongoing war.
Ricketts also suggested that it was a sign “he was capable of travelling” even after an international arrest warrant was issued for him last week.
It shows he is responsible for Russia’s victory in Mariupol, too, according to Ricketts, even though Moscow has endured significant losses and minimal gains since the war began.
"It was pretty laughable to be honest, he had to go in the dead of night"@LordRickettsP responds to President Putin's night time visit to Mariupol https://t.co/X3flQUBL0r
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/Hw36wdD7KY
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 20, 2023
Ricketts said that the arrest warrant also won’t impact Putin’s relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, either.
Xi is heading for a major three-day conference in Moscow this week. As one of the few countries not to side with Ukraine, its alliance is pretty important to Russia, especially amid its ailing war efforts.
Asked by host Kay Burley about what impact the arrest warrant will have on Putin, Ricketts replied: “In his normal life, nothing at all I don’t think, because he’s not about to leave Russia, certainly not to go to any country which might possibly take action on this arrest warrant.”
He claimed still sent a major signal that Putin has no “impunity” for the kind of the behaviour from the Russian forces seen throughout the war, although Ricketts added: “I don’t think we’ll see him in The Hague, in the international court honestly, anytime soon.”