World

Vladimir Putin has visited occupied areas of Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed last year, the Kremlin has said.

The Russian president attended a military command meeting in Kherson region and visited national guard in Luhansk.

It is not clear when the visits took place.

Putin visits Ukraine to ‘listen to Russian troops’ – Ukraine war latest updates

In Kherson region he heard reports from commanders of the airborne forces and the “Dnieper” army group as well as other senior officers who briefed him on the situation in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Russian troops retreated from the city of Kherson, the regional capital, last November and have been reinforcing their positions on the opposite bank of the Dnipro river in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

While numerous Western leaders have made their way to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since Russian forces invaded 14 months ago, President Putin has rarely visited parts of Ukraine under Russia’s control.

Last month, he visited the Crimea region and Mariupol, where Russia has been doing construction after raising much of the city to the ground.

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President Putin’s visit comes at a time when Russia’s New Year offensive has been grinding on with little success, as Ukrainian forces mount a fierce defence of Bakhmut.

Kremlin troops are stepping up their use of heavy artillery and air strikes in the city, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, anticipation has been growing ahead of an expected counteroffensive from Ukraine in the spring.

Kyiv’s armed forces, bolstered by dozens of Western-made tanks promised over the winter, are expected to try to replicate hugely successful offensives in Kharkiv and Kherson last year that saw swathes of territory liberated.

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