Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a rare visit to Russia’s forces deployed in Ukraine, the country’s defense ministry said on Saturday.
In a statement, the ministry said Shoigu “inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Vostok forces in the South Donetsk direction."
In a video from the ministry, Shoigu is seen handing out medals to Russian military personnel and inspecting damaged buildings with the Eastern Military District’s commander, Colonel-General Rustam Muradov.
“Awards deserved, earned. You fight with dignity! There is still a lot of work ahead. I really hope that you will continue to faithfully serve our country,” Shoigu told the military.
Shoigu and other members of Russia's defence establishment have faced criticism from the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and military bloggers.
Prigozhin has since the start of the Ukraine war been openly taking credit for Wagner’s efforts to secure some territorial gains, particularly in the battles raging around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
His unexpected rise prompted speculation about possible infighting among Moscow's elite as Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine sputtered.