Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister pays rare visit to occupied areas of Ukraine

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, paid a rare visit to occupied Ukrainian territory amid lackluster performance of Russia’s new military offensive and growing tensions with the Wagner mercenary group, a prominent paramilitary ally . Shoigu visited the occupied city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, according to videos and statements released Monday by the Russian Defense Ministry. He also visited a Russian military base in the eastern region of Donetsk on Saturday. Shoigu’s visit to Ukraine came a few days after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, Russia’s largest paramilitary force, has stepped up his criticism of Shoigu and other top military commanders, accusing them of being out of touch with frontline reality and prioritizing to politics rather than military performance. A year after the start of the war in Ukraine, the Russian army has suffered huge losses – nearly 200,000 soldiers killed or wounded, according to Western officials, and thousands of tanks and armored vehicles destroyed or captured by the Ukraine. Video footage released by the Defense Ministry showed a stone-faced Shoigu looking over maps and talking to subordinates in Ukraine. The dark scenes, many of which are muted, contrasted with histrionic video dispatches from Prigozhin, in which he paraded people he called Ukrainian prisoners of war on the roof of a bombed-out building, the president challenged. Ukrainian duel against an airborne fighter aircraft and oversaw the loading of coffins filled with what he claimed were fallen Ukrainian soldiers.


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