March 19 (Reuters) – A day after being accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court, President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, scene of some of the worst devastation of his year-old invasion.
GRAIN DEAL RENEWED
* A deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain was renewed for at least 60 days – half the intended period – after Russia warned any further extension beyond mid-May would depend on the removal of some Western sanctions.
PUTIN AND ARREST WARRANT
* Putin may not see the inside of a cell anytime soon, but his war crimes arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court could hurt his ability to travel freely and meet other world leaders, who may feel less inclined to speak to a wanted man.
* The ICC issued the warrant on Friday, accusing Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. Moscow denies committing atrocities in the conflict and dismissed the warrant as outrageous, but meaningless for Russia.
* Xi Jinping walks a diplomatic tightrope as he heads to Moscow on Monday, seeking to present China as a global peacemaker while strengthening ties with Putin, his closest ally, who is increasingly isolated by the West.
* Russia, China and Iran have completed three-way naval exercises in the Arabian Sea that included artillery fire at targets on the sea and in the air, the Russian defence ministry said on Saturday.
* Three senior U.S. security officials held a video call with a group of their Ukrainian counterparts to discuss military aid to Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said.
* Ukrainian forces outside the battered eastern city of Bakhmut are managing to keep Russian units at bay so ammunition, food, equipment and medicines can be delivered to defenders, the army said on Saturday.
* Russia’s Wagner mercenary group plans to recruit approximately 30,000 new fighters by the middle of May, its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Saturday.
* Reuters could not verify battleground reports.
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Compiled by Reuters editors
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