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Ukraine: Russia defence minister in rare visit to occupied areas in Ukraine

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, made a rare visit to occupied Ukrainian territory amid the lackluster performance of Russia’s renewed military offensive and growing tensions with the Wagner mercenary group, a prominent paramilitary ally. Shoigu toured the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to videos and statements released by the Russian defence ministry Monday. He also visited a Russian military base in the eastern Donetsk region Saturday. Shoigu’s visit to Ukraine came days after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group, Russia’s largest paramilitary force, escalated his criticism of Shoigu and other senior military commanders, accusing them of being out of touch with frontline reality and prioritizing politics over military performance. A year into the war in Ukraine, the Russian military has suffered staggering losses – approaching as many as 200,000 troops killed or wounded, Western officials say, and thousands of tanks and armored vehicles destroyed or captured by Ukraine. The video montages released by the defense ministry showed a stony-faced Shoigu looking over maps and talking to subordinates in Ukraine. The somber scenes, many of them muted, stood in contrast to Prigozhin’s histrionic frontline video dispatches, in which he has paraded people he said were Ukrainian prisoners of war on the rooftop of a bombed-out building, challenged the Ukrainian president to a duel from an airborne fighter jet and overseen the loading of coffins filled with what he claimed were fallen Ukrainian soldiers.



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