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Putin visits occupied Kherson region in Ukraine

[news] time:2023-05-28 11:27:50 source:CNN (Cable News Network) author:Press center2 click:29order

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited Moscow-controlled parts of Ukraine's southern Kherson region, the Kremlin says.

It says he attended a meeting to hear reports from military commanders.

Mr Putin also reportedly visited Ukraine's Luhansk region. Russia claims to have annexed both regions, but does not fully control either.

The BBC has verified that Mr Putin visited Kherson's coastal Henichensk area - but it is still unclear when.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the visit took place on 17 April. However, footage initially posted on the Kremlin's website contradicts this statement.

In the clip released by Mr Putin's press office, the Russian president can be clearly heard saying that the Easter holiday is "coming up".

Orthodox Easter was celebrated in Russia on 16 April, the day before the date claimed by Mr Peskov.

The video on the Kremlin website has since been edited, with Mr Putin's words "coming up" removed.

Such trips by the Russian leader are rare, although he made a surprise visit to the city of Mariupol in March.

Mr Putin told the military meeting in Kherson that, while he did not want to distract them from their duties, "it is important for me to hear your opinion on how the situation is developing, to listen to you, to exchange information".

Russian troops retreated from the city of Kherson late last year, losing the only regional capital it had managed to capture since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

However, some of the region remains under Russian control.

In a separate development, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday visited the frontline town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region.

His office published a video where Mr Zelensky is seen handing awards to soldiers, who have for months been defending the town from Russian attacks.

Responding to reports of Mr Putin's visits, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr Zelensky's office, tweeted that the Russian leader was touring "the occupied and ruined territories" of Ukraine "to enjoy the crimes of his minions for the last time".

"Putin's degradation is impressive," he said.

In the video released by the Kremlin of the trip to Ukraine, Mr Putin is seen stepping out of a helicopter in a field before he is greeted by a man, thought to be military commander Col Gen Oleg Makarevich.

He is then filmed speaking in a control room, sat between Col Gen Makarevich and the head of Russia's airborne forces, Col Gen Mikhail Teplinsky.

Col Gen Teplinsky returned to the front line after allegedly being removed in January, American military experts and British intelligence have reported.

"Teplinsky is likely one of the few senior Russian generals widely respected by the rank-and-file," the UK Ministry of Defence wrote on social media on Sunday.

"His recent turbulent career suggests intense tensions between factions within the Russian General Staff about Russia's military approach in Ukraine."

Later in the video, Mr Putin presents what is reported to be a copy of an icon he says belonged to "one of the most decorated defence ministers of the Russian Army in the 19th Century".

We see a road sign reading "see you later in the Kherson region" next to a hotel that has been verified by the BBC as being in the Kherson region. There are then aerial shots taken over a coastal village in the same area.

Afterwards, Mr Putin is seen getting out of a helicopter once again and is then shown in different clothes being taken into a bunker and speaking with Col Gen Alexander Lapin, chief of staff of Russia's ground forces.

The Kremlin says Mr Putin visited the Vostok headquarters, which belongs to Russia's National Guard, in occupied Luhansk.

It has also said that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov did not accompany the president on the trip as it was a "big risk" for Russia's top commanders to be in one place so close to the front lines.

Additional reporting by Olga Robinson

(editor-in-charge:Press center7)

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