Putin visits headquarters of Russian troops fighting in Ukraine

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President Vladimir Putin has visited the headquarters of Russian troops fighting in Ukraine in his second trip to Russian-held territories since March.

A video released by the Kremlin and broadcast by Russian state television showed Mr Putin visiting the command post for Russian forces in the southern Kherson region.

It showed Mr Putin arriving by helicopter to receive reports from military leaders about the combat situation.

The Russian leader then moved by helicopter to the headquarters of the Russian National Guard of the eastern Luhansk region to hear a report from commanders.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin presented an icon to troops (Pool Photo via AP)

Russia annexed the Kherson and Luhansk regions along with the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions in September in a move that was rejected by much of the world as illegal.

It was impossible to independently verify the footage of Mr Putin’s visits to the two regions that was released by the Kremlin.

Last month, Mr Putin visited the Russian-held Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol, which was captured by Russian troops in May after two months of fierce fighting.

The locations of the military headquarters in the Kherson and Luhansk regions were not disclosed, so it was not possible to assess how close they are to the front line.

Mr Putin’s trips to the military headquarters come as Ukraine is preparing for a new counter-offensive to reclaim the occupied territories.

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President Vladimir Putin has met Russian military leaders in occupied Ukraine (Pavel Bednyakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Zelensky visited units in Avdiivka, a city in Donetsk province where fierce battles are taking place, his office said. He heard first-hand reports about the battlefield situation and handed out awards.

Mr Zelensky’s visits to areas of his country that have felt the brunt of Russia’s full-scale invasion gathered pace last month as he shuttled across the country, often by train. As with Mr Putin, the Ukrainian leader’s wartime trips usually are not publicised until after he has already left an area.

While official coverage of Mr Putin’s trip showed the Russian leader in mostly formal and ceremonious settings, photographs issued by Mr Zelensky’s office showed the Ukrainian president taking selfies with soldiers, eating cake with them and drinking out of paper cups.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has turned into a stalemate amid heavy fighting in the country’s east, particularly around the town of Bakhmut, which for eight-and-a-half months has been the stage for the war’s longest and bloodiest fight.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Zelensky has argued that if Russia wins the Bakhmut battle, it could allow Mr Putin to begin building international support for a deal that would require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises to end the war.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, told The Associated Press in an interview in Kyiv that Ukraine’s allies are helping the government to achieve the level of technical equipment necessary to launch the attack, delivering heavy armoured vehicles and ammunition.

He expressed confidence that Ukraine will be able to return all its occupied territories.

“We will defeat Russia,” he said. “If you have a strong inner spirit, you will definitely win. And we always had it strong. This is something that always annoyed the Russians.”

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