The exiled city council of Ukraine's Mariupol has blasted the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the embattled port city that fell under Moscow's control last year after a long siege.

It was his first to the city since it was captured after a lengthy siege at the start of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

"The international criminal Putin visited occupied Mariupol. He watched the 'rebuilding of the city'... at night. Probably in order not to see the city, killed by his 'liberation', in the light of day," the city council said on its Telegram account.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak has also slammed the surprise visit, saying that the "criminal always returns to the crime scene".

The trip comes after an arrest warrant was issued for Mr Putin by the International Criminal Court, over Russia's alleged deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children during the conflict.

The port city of Mariupol became known around the world as a byword for death and destruction as much of it was reduced to ruins in the first months of the war, eventually falling to Russian forces in May.

Hundreds were killed in the bombing of a theatre wherefamilies with children were sheltering.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe said Russia's early bombing of a maternity hospital there was a war crime.

Moscow denied that and has said since it invaded on 24 February last year that it does not target civilians.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, Mr Putin flew to Mariupol by helicopter yesterday and took a tour of the city, at times driving a car.

He visited several sites and spoke with residents and was presented with a report on the reconstruction work of the city.

Vladimir Putin visited an arts school in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol

What does the ICC arrest warrant mean for Putin?

Mr Putin's stop in Mariupol comes after his surprise visit to Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula's annexation.

Russian state TV showed him visiting the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, accompanied by the local Moscow-appointed governor Mikhail Razvozhayev.

Mr Razvozhayev said on the messaging app Telegram that Mr Putin had been expected to take part in the opening of a children's art school by video link.

"But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. Behind the wheel. Because on such a historic day, the president is always with Sevastopol and the people of Sevastopol," he said.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 following a referendum that was not recognised by Kyiv and the international community.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said he aimed to take back Crimea, though Moscow has refused to include it in possible peace talks.

Scenes from Mariupol in April 2022

'Void' ICC warrant

Mr Putin's visit came after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him on Friday over the "deportation" of Ukrainian children.

Kyiv says more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the start of the conflict in February 2022, many of them placed in institutions and foster homes.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told AFP that Mr Putin was now liable for arrest if he set foot in any of the court's more than 120 member states.

The 70-year-old Russian leader has not commented publicly on the warrant, but the Kremlin dismissed its validity as "void" since Russia did not recognise the ICC's jurisdiction.

The International Criminal Court is based in The Hague.

The Hague-based court's decision came ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow tomorrow to sign accords touted as ushering in a new era of ties.

China, a major Russian ally, has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, urging Moscow and Kyiv to open negotiations.

But Western leaders have repeatedly criticised Beijing for failing to condemn Russia's offensive, accusing it of providing Moscow with diplomatic cover for its campaign.

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Grain deal extended

In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two sides had agreed to extend a deal that has allowed Ukraine, a major grain exporter, to resume exports after its Black Sea ports were blocked by Russian warships.

The deal agreed between Kyiv and Moscow was key to alleviating a global food crisis

But there was disagreement over the terms.

Ukraine's infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended for 120 days, but a spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow had agreed to a 60-day extension.

The deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 had allowed for the safe passage of exports, and had already been extended for 120 days in November.

The fighting is now concentrated in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, particularly the city of Bakhmut.

Russian strikes hit the nearby city of Kramatorsk on Saturday, killing two people and wounding 10, said regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, who accused Moscow of using cluster bombs in the attack.

AFP journalists in Kramatorsk heard around 10 explosions go off nearly simultaneously just before 4pm local time and saw smoke rise above a park in the southern part of the city.

A woman died at the scene from her wounds.