Russian defence minister pays rare visit to troops in Ukraine

AFP / Sergei Fadeichev

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a rare visit to Russia's forces deployed in Ukraine, the country's defence ministry said on Saturday.

Russia's top military chiefs have visited the front lines in Ukraine only sparingly since tens of thousands of Russian forces invaded the neighbouring country a year ago in what Moscow calls a "special military operation".

"The Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Eastern Military District in the South Donetsk direction," his ministry said in a statement published on messaging app Telegram.

In a video released by the ministry, Shoigu is seen awarding medals to Russian military personnel and touring a ruined town with the district's commander, Colonel-General Rustam Muradov.

Shoigu, who has served as defence minister since 2012, has received harsh criticism from pro-war advocates for his performance in the conflict.

Wagner Group mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin last month, whose militia has played a significant role in Russia's war effort in Ukraine, accused Shoigu and others last month of "treason" for withholding supplies of munitions to his militia.

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