Russia says defense minister visited frontlines in Ukraine

Russia says a video it released Saturday shows Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visiting the frontlines in eastern Ukraine. Fierce battles have continued in the area.

The defense ministry says Shoigu visited one of Russia's command posts in southern Donetsk.

He is seen awarding medals to Russian military personnel. He also praises them for fighting with dignity and asks them to continue to serve the country.

Fierce battles are grinding on as Russian forces step up attacks on the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut. The push is part of Russia's fight for control of the entire region.

The head of Russia's Wagner Group private military contractor, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Friday that its units had practically surrounded Bakhmut, and that only one exit route had been left. He urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to withdraw the country's troops.

Zelenskyy reaffirmed his stance to fight back. He also expressed his gratitude for the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers defending Bakhmut.

The Institute for the Study of War said on Friday that Ukraine appears to be considering conditions to withdraw from parts of Bakhmut while controlling its fighting units.

The US think tank also pointed out that Russian forces had met fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces and suffered devastating casualties while fighting to take Bakhmut since roughly May 2022.