Putin travels south to meet generals waging Ukraine offensive

AFP , Saturday 19 Aug 2023

Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with the commander of Moscow's Ukraine offensive in the Russian city Rostov-on-Don, the Kremlin said Saturday, in a rare trip close to combat zones.

Russia s President Vladimir Putin
FILE PHOTO: Russia s President Vladimir Putin (R) inspects the wagon of Line D3 train during a ceremony to launch the Line D3 of the Moscow Central Diametres (MCD) suburban railway network in Moscow, on August 17, 2023. AFP


Putin's meeting with Moscow's top military brass came after Kyiv claimed some success on the battlefield this week and a day after the US approved the transfer of Dutch and Danish F-16 warplanes to Kyiv.

Moscow gave no details of when the meeting took place, but footage released by state media indicated it was at night.

"Vladimir Putin held a meeting at the headquarters of the special military operation group in Rostov-on-Don," the Kremlin said in a statement.

"The head of state listened to briefings by the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, commanders of directions and other senior officers of the group."

A video published by the RIA Novosti news agency showed Putin, wearing a suit, stepping out of a jeep in the dark and being greeted with a handshake by Gerasimov, in military attire.

Gerasimov is seen leading Putin down a corridor decorated with portraits of Russian military men and of the Russian leader chairing a meeting with army chiefs.

Rostov-on-Don -- a southern city close to Ukraine -- has become the military centre and operational hub for Moscow's planning of its Ukraine operation.

It was also the scene of a dramatic armed mutiny by Wagner mercenaries in June, which saw them briefly take over the army HQ in Rostov, before halting their rebellion.

Gerasimov, who Wagner wanted to unseat, has rarely been seen in public since.

Putin seldom travels to areas near the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

Drone attacks

As Putin met with his generals, Kyiv said it had shot down over a dozen Russian drones in an overnight attack.

And the Russian army said it had thwarted a Ukrainian attack on Crimea.

Both sides in the conflict -- which started in February 2022 -- have reported regular drone incursions as Ukraine presses a counteroffensive to at reclaim Russian-held territory.

Kyiv's air force said it had shot down 15 Russian drones.

Russian forces "attacked from the north with 'Shahed-136/131' attack UAVs. A total of 17 attack drones were launched from the Kursk region," the the air force said on Telegram.

It added that air defences were activated in "northern and central, as well as in the western regions".

Moscow has ramped up attacks on Ukraine's port infrastructure in the Black Sea and the Danube, since the scrapping of a deal that had allowed the safe export grain through the shipping hub.

The Russian army said it had repelled a Ukrainian attack on Crimea, a day after Russian forces destroyed Ukrainian drones targeting Moscow and its Black Sea Fleet.

"On the night of August 19, the Kyiv regime attempted a terrorist attack with an anti-aircraft missile of the S-200 air defence system turned into a strike version on the territory of Crimea," the Russian army said in a statement.

The Black Sea peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014, has regularly been targeted during Russia's almost year-and-a-half long offensive.

During the counteroffensive, Kyiv has repeatedly said it aims to liberate territory lost to Moscow, including Crimea.

Kyiv had on Friday welcomed a US decision to let Denmark and the Netherlands hand American F-16 fighter jets over to Ukraine once its pilots are fully trained.

Kyiv has been pushing for months to get advanced Western fighter aircraft to replace the heavy losses incurred by its air force, which flies mostly Russian planes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he was in Sweden on Saturday for talks with the prime minister, political parties and the royal family.

He said on social media that his meetings would focus on "partnership, defence cooperation, EU integration, and common Euro-Atlantic security".

Search Keywords:
Short link: