Chris Lange, FISM News
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy both paid visits to their respective troops on the ground in Ukraine Tuesday as the world anticipates a new phase in the war in Europe.
Putin met with his military commanders in Kherson and Luhansk Tuesday, two of four regions in Ukraine the Kremlin leader annexed in September. He also met with senior airborne forces commanders and the Dnieper army group who briefed him on developments in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia territories in the south.
Senior Zelenskyy aide Mykhailo Podolyak referred to Putin’s trip as a “‘special tour’ of the mass murders’ author in the occupied and ruined territories to enjoy the crimes of his minions for the last time.”
Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy paid a morale-boosting visit to his troops in the eastern town of Avdiivka, where he was also briefed by commanders. Avdiivka is located just over 40 miles southwest of the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut.
Video footage released by Zelenskyy’s office showed him talking with soldiers and handing out awards inside a warehouse facility.
“I have the honor to be here today, to thank you for your service, for defending our land, Ukraine, our families,” Zelenskyy said. “I wish you only victory – this is what I wish for every Ukrainian, this is what is very important to all of us.”
The Ukrainian leader also visited a hospital, where he bestowed medals to wounded soldiers.
The battlefield visits come at a time when the warring nations appear to be gearing up for a long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive that appears to have been pushed back. Kyiv hinted weeks ago that the initiative was likely only days away. The apparent delay has fueled speculation that the recent leak of highly-classified U.S. intelligence documents may have jeopardized Kyiv’s position in the 14-month war. Included among a trove of top-secret materials that surfaced on social media in recent weeks were documents that exposed significant weaknesses in Ukraine’s weapons and ammunition supplies as well as detailed maps showing Ukrainian battlefield positions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin downplayed the impact of the leaks on Ukraine last week, insisting that “only President Zelenskyy and his leadership really know the full details of that [counteroffensive] plan.”
LONG-AWAITED PATRIOT SYSTEMS ARRIVE IN UKRAINE
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Resniko announced on Wednesday that Patriot air defense systems promised by the U.S., Germany, and the Netherlands have finally arrived on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Reznikov posted on Twitter that “our beautiful sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defence systems have arrived in Ukraine” and thanked the governments of the three allied countries, which he praised as having “kept their word.”
Reznikov said that he first asked Washington for the Patriots in August 2021, before the invasion.
“And what did we hear? It’s impossible! But the impossible is possible,” he wrote. The defense minister said Ukraine’s “air defenders have mastered [the Patriots] as fast as they could.”
RUSSIAN DRONE ATTACKS SPARK FIRE AT ODESSA INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITY
Ukraine’s Air Force Command said Wednesday that it shot down 10 of 12 Iranian-made Shahed drones during an overnight attack by Russia on Ukraine’s southern Odessa region.
Newsweek reported that Ukrainian authorities in the region said an infrastructure facility was hit during the attacks, sparking a large fire.
Ukraine’s administration in Odessa said that the blaze was “quickly extinguished” by fire and rescue services.
Elsewhere, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces in Bakhmut, Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, said that Russian forces are “increasing the activity of heavy artillery and the number of air strikes, turning the city into ruins.”
FISM reported on Tuesday that Britain’s Ministry of Defense assessed that Russian and Wagner Group forces have made recent territorial gains in a renewed effort by the rival militaries to set aside their differences. The capture of Bakhmut would create a pathway for Russian forces to advance onto Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, two larger cities in the Donetsk region where Moscow has set its sights.
Ukraine’s military refuted the Wagner group’s claim earlier this month that its fighters had seized control of more than 80% of the city.
Reuters reports that inspections of vessels carrying grain from Ukraine have resumed in Turkey following a brief pause after Russia’s foreign ministry accused Ukraine and the United Nations of “causing difficulties.” Ukrainian officials said earlier this week that the deal was on the brink of unraveling.