Russian minister inspects troops, US puts up new Ukraine aid

MOSCOW (AFP/APP): Russia’s defence minister has inspected troops in frontline regions in eastern Ukraine, after the United States offered more support to Kyiv whose forces are struggling in Bakhmut.
Sergei Shoigu inspected an advance command post in the direction of the south of the Donetsk region, the defence ministry said, without specifying exactly where or when. It put out a rare video of the Russian defence minister travelling in a helicopter and talking to a soldier in front of damaged buildings.
Shoigu handed state awards to servicemen and held a meeting with his deputies “on organising the uninterrupted provision of troops with armaments, military hardware and ordnance”, his ministry later said.
The visit came with fierce fighting ongoing around Bakhmut, the longest battle of the conflict, which has further exposed rivalries between the conventional army and the Wagner paramilitary group. Wagner chef Yevgeny Prigozhin said Friday his fighters had “practically encircled” Bakhmut. Well-versed in social media, Prigozhin has for weeks been publicising the advances of his men towards the eastern city, whose symbolic importance outstrips any military significance.
Prigozhin regularly posts videos of himself alongside mercenaries, on the ground or even in a fighter jet, in contrast with Russian generals criticised for shirking the frontline. In his latest video Friday, Prigozhin directly called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to abandon Bakhmut, which Russia is determined to seize as part of the wider aim of capturing the entire Donetsk region.