(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin visited the commander of Russia’s operation in Ukraine and other top military brass, the Kremlin said on Saturday, a meeting that came after Ukraine claimed counteroffensive gains on the southeastern front.
“Vladimir Putin held a meeting at the headquarters of the special military operation group in Rostov-on-Don,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russia, which launched its invasion in Ukraine in February 2022, calls its actions a special military operation.
The Kremlin added that Putin, Russia’s supreme commander-in-chief, listened to reports from Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Army in charge of Moscow’s operations in Ukraine, and other top military commanders and officers.
The meeting came after Ukraine, whose counteroffensive to recapture land taken by Russia in the first months of the war has been slower than expected, said it liberated a small village along the frontline, its first since July.
The Kremlin did not provide any additional details of the meeting and it was not clear when the meeting took place. Videos published by the RIA state news agency showed Gerasimov greeting Putin in what appeared to be night-time and leading him into a building after a brief handshake.
Gerasimov, who has been seen rarely in public in recent months, had been the target of savage criticism from Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and some Russian military bloggers over Russia’s failings in the war.
Rostov-on-Don, a city just some 100 kilometres (62 miles)from Ukraine’s border, is home to the Russian southern military district command whose army is fighting in Ukraine.
With Ukraine’s counteroffensive struggling to break through entrenched Russian lines and Moscow’s stretched military resources and dissent in the ranks, both sides have measured recent successes by taking control of tiny villages.
On Thursday, the Ukrainian military said it had liberated the small village of Urozhaine in the Donetsk region, pushing forward in its drive towards the Sea of Azov to potentially cut the Russian land bridge to Crimea – vital for Moscow’s supply routes.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, Mrinmay Dey and Lidia Kelly; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard and Kim Coghill)
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