Ukraine war: Defence minister Shoigu has visited frontline troops, claims Russia

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By Euronews  with AFP, Reuters
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu looks at documents aboard a military helicopter at an undisclosed location in Ukraine, 18 December 2022
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu looks at documents aboard a military helicopter at an undisclosed location in Ukraine, 18 December 2022   -   Copyright  AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu has visited the frontline in Ukraine, his ministry said on Thursday.

Shoigu "checked the conditions of deployment of military personnel and equipment,” the ministry said on Telegram, accompanying its message with a video of the minister.

In the footage, Shoigu is seen walking around the trenches and inspecting the bedding in the sleeping quarters at one of the sites.

He is also shown being greeted by soldiers and walking around several military vehicles with the letter Z prominently displayed on the back.

The ministry has not revealed any further details, including the location or locations Shoigu supposedly visited.

Euronews could not independently verify the veracity of Moscow’s claims.

Shoigu's trip to the frontline represents the second purported visit in less than a week and comes after Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was reportedly in the frontline city of Bakhmut. 

The Russian defence minister "flew around the areas of deployment of troops and checked the advanced positions of Russian units" in the warzone, the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app on Sunday.

Similarly to Thursday, it was not clear where Shoigu went or when the visit took place.

Shoigu's two alleged visits to troops in Ukraine come amidst reports that Russian soldiers and officers have become increasingly unhappy with the top brass and President Vladimir Putin.

In turn, Putin said on Wednesday that the Russian army must learn from and fix the problems it had suffered in Ukraine, promising to give the military whatever it needed to prosecute a war nearing the end of its 10th month.

In a speech to defence chiefs in Moscow, Putin said there were no financial limits on what the government would provide in terms of equipment and hardware.

"We have no funding restrictions. The country and the government are providing everything that the army asks for," he said.

Also, the Thursday trip took place less than a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Washington, where he met with his US counterpart Joe Biden and gave a rousing speech in front of Congress.

Zelenskyy received a hero's welcome on Wednesday from the US legislators, thanking "every American" for helping to fund the war effort with money that is "not charity" but an "investment" in global security and democracy.

In his remarks to lawmakers, Zelenskyy harked back to US victories in the Battle of the Bulge, a turning point against Nazi Germany in World War II, and the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga, an American victory that helped draw France's aid for US independence.

The Ukrainian leader predicted that next year would be a "turning point" in the conflict, "when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom — the freedom of people who stand for their values."