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Ukraine War Updates: Russia’s Defense Minister Visits Troops After Prigozhin’s Uprising

Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, seated, in a photo released by his ministry on Monday.Credit…Russian Defense Ministry, via Reuters

Russia on Monday released video of Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu for the first time since the short-lived uprising by the Wagner mercenary group over the weekend, saying he had met with forces in occupied Ukraine. The Defense Ministry did not specify when or where the visit occurred.

Mr. Shoigu visited a command post and was briefed by Yevgeny Nikiforov, the head of Russian forces in Ukraine, about the situation on the front lines, the Defense Ministry said on the Telegram app. The ministry posted a video showing Mr. Shoigu looking out the window of a plane as another person points outside. He is then seen being briefed by other officials and looking at maps and other documents on a table, although there is no sound, and he is not shown with any troops.

Though it created as many questions as answers, the video appeared to be an effort by the Kremlin to project a return to normalcy after a weekend of confusion that sowed questions about the stability of President Vladimir V. Putin’s government. Moscow’s mayor on Monday morning also ended the restrictions in the city and announced that school graduation ceremonies would take place this weekend.

No senior Russian official has appeared in public since the end of the rebellion, led by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, during which fighters from his Wagner private military company captured a key Russian military installation in the south and moved nearly halfway toward Moscow, the capital, posing the biggest threat to Mr. Putin’s rule in more than two decades. Mr. Putin still has not been seen since giving a five-minute address to the nation on Saturday, in which he promised to crush the rebellion.

Mr. Prigozhin, once a close ally and confidant of Mr. Putin, had for months publicly criticized Mr. Shoigu and other military leaders, accusing them of mismanaging the war in Ukraine and starving his troops of ammunition. Russia’s military has relied on Wagner, a force with thousands of highly skilled troops, to engage Ukraine’s military in some of the bloodiest battles since Russia invaded in February 2022.

The rebellion, which barely lasted 24 hours, ended on Saturday, when the leader of Belarus, a close ally of Mr. Putin, offered Mr. Prigozhin safe passage. Mr. Putin’s government dropped the charges against Mr. Prigozhin and said the Wagner troops could enlist in the military and would not face discipline.

Mr. Shoigu, who never served in the military before his appointment as defense minister, has also faced criticism from Russian proxy officials in occupied Ukraine who accuse him of bungling the war effort.

Long seen as close to Mr. Putin, Mr. Shoigu was a popular minister of emergency situations, often seen traveling to the site of natural disasters, before the Russian leader elevated him to defense minister in 2012. The pair were often photographed together hunting, fishing, and picking mushrooms, including on the eve of the Russian president’s 67th birthday in 2019.

Before Mr. Shoigu’s 65th birthday in 2020, Mr. Putin awarded him one of Russia’s highest honor for overseeing Russia’s military campaigns in Syria.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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