Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don as he assessed the state of his country’s forces in Ukraine as the war drags on toward winter. It was his second public visit to the headquarters in less than a month.
Video shared by a Russian state news agency showed Putin being greeted late Thursday by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff shortly after arriving at the southern military headquarters which is less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Ukraine’s southeastern border.
Almost 21 months of war have significantly eroded both Russia’s and Ukraine’s military resources. As winter comes, the fighting is likely to further settle into attritional warfare and analysts expect little change to the more than 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line.
Shortly after Putin’s visit to the military headquarters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia was pressing ahead with its goals in Ukraine.
“In the absence of conditions for a political-diplomatic settlement, we are continuing the special military operation,” Peskov said.
Commenting on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s promise of new gains by Kyiv’s forces, Peskov said, “President Zelenskyy has been frantically promising military successes to his donors, who are worried.”
“They should realize that they won’t score a battlefield victory,” Peskov said. “The sooner they come to realize that, the earlier conditions for a settlement could emerge.”
At the southern military headquarters, Putin was “introduced to new types of military equipment” and was informed about the progress of the war, Peskov said, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
Putin was shown an all-terrain vehicle made by China — the Desertcross 1000-3 — according to video shared by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. The vehicle was painted the color of sand and an information board nearby said it was designed for reconnaissance, raid and search and rescue operations, as well as for transporting materiel along bad roads.
Putin made the visit on the way back from a trip to Kazakhstan, where he aimed to cement ties with Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbor and major economic partner in the midst of tensions with the West over Ukraine.
Around the time that Putin was visiting Rostov-on-Don, Russia launched a drone attack on Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force said it intercepted five drones and one missile launched at the Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Poltava and Kyiv regions of Ukraine. Another drone and missile were not intercepted.
Zelenskyy’s office said two people have been killed in the south of the country over the past day after Russian shelling.
On Friday, Ukraine’s military intelligence said it had damaged a number of Russian Serna landing craft in Crimea which are designed to carry out assault landings and transport cargo.
Ukraine’s Security Service also said on Friday that a man who guided a column of 128 Russian military vehicles from the northern region of Sumy to the outskirts of Kyiv in the beginning of the Russian invasion in 2022 was sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason.
According to the security service, the man continued to cooperate with Russia’s Federal Security Service until he was arrested as an informant in August 2022. It said his job was to show Russian troops the shortest way to reach Kyiv in the days after the invasion.
In Russia, the Russian news outlet Baza and military blogger Semyon Pegov, who runs the popular WarGonzo channel, reported on Telegram that Russian FSB Lt. Col. Sergei Shatyi was killed by unidentified assailants who fired at his vehicle in the village of Ulitsa in the Bryansk region on the border with Ukraine.
At the same time, the Russian Volunteer Corps, a group of Russian citizens who fight alongside Ukrainian forces, posted pictures on their Telegram channel of what they said was a successful ambush in the Bryansk region.
Neither of the reports could be verified by The Associated Press and Russia’s FSB did not immediately reply to a request for comment.