Vladimir Putin visits annexed parts of Ukraine amid Russian offensives
Amid deadly fighting underway with heavy airstrikes and bombardment on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived at the two regions of Ukraine — which Moscow claims it has annexed — and met his frontline commanders.
In a statement, Kremlin said that President Putin had attended a military command meeting in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region and visited a national guard headquarters in eastern Luhansk on Monday.
The president was briefed by commanders of the airborne forces and the Dnieper army group including senior officers on the current situation in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south.
Kremlin noted that “Neither Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu nor Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov joined Putin on his trip as a security precaution.”
While on Twitter, Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential aide mocked the Russian President’s visit and regarded it as a “‘special tour’ of the mass murders author in the occupied and ruined territories to enjoy the crimes of his minions for the last time”.
Moscow has been accused by Ukraine and Western countries of war crimes however, it vehemently denies all the allegations.
The four regions which President Putin claimed to annex last September are Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk after a referendum. Ukraine rejected the move terming it “sham referendums”.
Last November, Russian forces suffered a setback from Kherson city, the regional capital and have been establishing their positions on the opposite side of the Dnipro River in view of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Despite several Western officials visiting Ukraine and meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy since the Russian “Special Military Operation”, Putin paid fewer visits to the Ukrainian parts under Moscow’s control.
He visited Russian-controlled Crimea in March and the southeastern city of Mariupol in the Donetsk region.
Russian attacks on Ukraine
Heavy fighting is underway in and around Bakhmut in Donetsk region for months each side claiming to control most of its part.
The commander of Ukraine ground forces, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said in a statement on Tuesday “Currently, the enemy is increasing the activity of heavy artillery and the number of air strikes, turning the city into ruins.”
If Bakhmut is captured, it would provide a way for Russian forces to advance on two bigger cities it has long coveted in the Donetsk region — Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
Wagner group chief said in a statement this month that its fighters controlled more than 80% of the city. The claim was rejected by Ukraine.
In a meeting of foreign ministers of group seven (G7) held in Japan, they condemned the Russian plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus on Tuesday — a neighbour of Moscow.
Since the Cold War, Russia has first announced to station its nuclear weapons outside of its territory.
The statement from G7 countries noted: “Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and its threat to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus are unacceptable.”
“Any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences,” they said.
G7 members have sanctioned Russia over its Ukraine operation.
The Russian-Ukrainian standoff has claimed thousands of lives, destroyed cities and displaced millions of people.
Russia’s Defence Minister Shoigu told his Chinese counterpart Li Shangu during talks in Moscow on Tuesday that their countries’ military cooperation was a “stabilising” force in the world and helped to reduce the chances of a conflict.
Li’s trip is aimed to show the world that China firmly intends to strengthen its strategic cooperation with Russia, reported TASS.