Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu went for the first time to the war zone in Ukraine to award medals to Moscow’s troops, according to military officials and video.
Footage that was released by the ministry Monday showed a military helicopter landing in an undisclosed location, and a stone-faced Shoigu, 67, in army fatigues emerging to meet with senior commanders.
“At the command posts of Russian units, Army General Sergei Shoigu heard reports from the commanders on the current situation and actions of the Russian Armed Forces in the main operational areas,” the defense ministry said in a statement Monday.
The video also showed Shoigu pinning a medal on a Russian soldier.
“I have confidence in you,” the minister said in a flat, monotone voice. “You still have many glorious deeds ahead of you for the good of your Fatherland, the armed forces and the air force. Congratulations. Take care of yourselves.”
The Post has not been able to verify the video or whether Shoigu visited Ukraine.
The Kremlin did not disclose the exact location of Shoigu’s purported visit to Ukraine, but there is strong speculation he was in bombed-out Mariupol, which Russian forces captured in May after razing most of the city to the ground.
Russia-1 host Vladimir Solovyov, who has been dubbed “Putin’s Voice” for his role as a top Kremlin propagandist, claimed that the minister visited Ukrainian territories that had been captured by Russian forces.
“Sergei Kozhugetovich Shoigu has arrived in the area of the special military operation. Just take a look: he quietly, calmly flew in,” Solovyov said during a recent broadcast while showing a clip from the minister’s visit.
“Here is (Shoigu) — well done, looks great. He calmly arrived in the denazified, demilitarized, liberated from the Nazis territories. all is great.”
Solovyov then boasted that future Shoigu visits would include Kyiv, Odessa and Mykolaiv once Russia’s invasion has seized Ukraine’s major cities.
In March, Shoigu disappeared for several weeks amid claims he had suffered a heart attack or undergone surgery.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has so far failed to personally visit troops in the war zone, unlike risky trips to the front lines made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Some analysts believe this is due to Putin’s own health problems, which are limiting his public appearances.
However, Putin, 69, was seen at a number of engagements last week, and is due this week to travel to Central Asia for meetings with leaders of ex-Soviet states.
The Shoigu mission – in great secrecy – came amid speculation that the defense minister has lost control of war tactics to a succession of generals as Putin rotates in his favorites and then tires of them.
Most recently, Colonel General Sergei Surovikin is said to have replaced Alexandr Dvornikov who was earlier ordered by Putin to rescue his flagging war effort.
“For over thirty years, Surovikin’s career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality,” said the British Ministry of Defence on the last changes.
One Western observer said: “Shoigu is seen looking far more assertive and active than we have seen during the entirety of the war.”
With Post Wires