Russian defense minister visits front lines as Ukraine’s hold on Bakhmut slips


March 4 (UPI) — Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a rare visit to frontline troops in Ukraine on Saturday as Kyiv’s grip on the embattled city of Bakhmut appeared to be slipping.

The Kremlin announced the visit by Shoigu to an undisclosed location in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, which Russia claims to have annexed.


Shoigu, the defense ministry said, “has inspected the advance control post of a unit of the Vostok group of forces the south Donetsk direction during operations in the course of the special military operation,” which is how Moscow refers to its year-long invasion of Ukraine.

“At the control post, Shoigu heard a report by the commander of the group, Colonel-General Rustam Muradov, and staff officers on the current developments,” the statement continued, adding that defense chief gave medals to soldiers and made uplifting remarks.

“These are well-deserved awards. You are fighting bravely! There is still much work to do. I very much hope that you will continue to faithfully serve our country,” Shoigu said.

His frontline visit came as Western analysts warned the long-running battle for the Donetsk city of Bakhmut may soon end in Moscow’s favor.


The British Ministry of Defense said Saturday the city is surrounded on three sides by encroaching Russian forces.

“Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, and within the last 36 hours two key bridges in Bakhmut have been destroyed, including a vital bridge connecting the city to the last main supply route from Bakhmut to the city of Chasiv Yar,” defense officials tweeted.

“Regular Russian Army and Wagner Group forces have made further advances into the northern suburbs of the city, which is now a Ukrainian-held salient, vulnerable to Russian attacks on three sides,” they added.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s trip to Kyiv in February sparked outrage amongst prominent pro-Kremlin nationalist figures.

Additionally, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been feuding with the Russian defense officials, accusing them of trying to take credit for battlefield advances he believes should be credited to Wagner.

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Ukrainians march together through the streets of London to the Russian Embassy to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2023. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo