Putin Visits Russian City Seized During Wagner Mutiny

by Pelican Press
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President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia traveled to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don to meet with military commanders, the Kremlin said on Saturday, in his first publicized visit to the military hub since it was seized in June in a short-lived rebellion led by the Wagner mercenary chief.

The Kremlin did not say when Mr. Putin visited. He met with the chief of the Russian military, Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the Kremlin said. General Gerasimov and Sergei K. Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, were the primary targets of criticism from Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company, in the lead-up to an uprising that plunged the country into crisis and raised questions about Mr. Putin’s leadership.

The visit, which appeared to take place at night, comes as Mr. Putin continues an active schedule of public appearances, aiming to project a sense of authority in the days since the mutiny and amid the war in Ukraine. Russia’s troops have largely succeeded in holding the line against Ukrainian forces in Kyiv’s Western-backed counteroffensive, a military achievement he has praised regularly in public comments.

It is also a further sign that Mr. Putin is sticking by his top generals. At the same time, the top general seen as closest to Mr. Prigozhin, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, still has not been seen in public since the mutiny.

Rostov-on-Don is home to the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District, a strategic command center for Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine. Mr. Prigozhin briefly took control of the headquarters before his fighters began advancing toward Moscow.

The Russian state news agency Tass said that Mr. Putin had repeatedly visited the city and the command post there, including in March, when he also visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Separately on Saturday, Russia’s military said it had shot down a Ukrainian missile aimed at the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. An S-200 surface-to-air missile was shot down by air defense, and there were no injuries or damage, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. The claim could not be independently verified.

A week earlier, Moscow said it had shot down two missiles fired by Ukraine at the strategically vital Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Crimea to Russia. Ukrainian officials, while not directly confirming the attack, have said they would continue carrying out attacks on the peninsula and the bridge as part of Kyiv’s efforts to target the Russian military’s logistical supply lines.

In their slow-moving counteroffensive in the country’s east, Ukrainian forces have been aiming to reach the Sea of Azov and drive a wedge into the so-called land bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, a critical link for the Russian military’s supply routes.

Here’s what else is happening in the war:

  • Zelensky Visit: President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived on Saturday in Sweden, where he said in a statement that he would continue to to work on bilateral cooperation, “in particular in the defense industry, the European integration of Ukraine and common security in the Euro-Atlantic space.”

    He added that Ukraine supported Sweden “on its way into NATO.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, an alliance member that had been blocking Sweden’s entry, expressed support in July for the Nordic country’s membership, but said that it still needed to take more steps to earn the support of the Turkish Parliament.

  • Camp David Summit: In his summit with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, President Biden commended Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan for his country’s support of Ukraine. “Imagine if we had done nothing?” the president said. If the world had not come to Kyiv’s aid, “What signal would that send to China about Taiwan?” Mr. Biden asked, hinting at U.S. officials’ concern about the prospect of China taking military action against Taiwan.

Paul Sonne and Marc Santora contributed reporting.

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