In a rare face-to-face encounter with regular soldiers, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited wounded Russian servicemen in Ukraine on Monday as Kyiv advanced its counteroffensive against Moscow’s forces and violence heated up over the weekend.
On “Russia Day,” a nationalistic public holiday, the Russian president paid a visit to the soldiers at the Central Vishnevsky Military Clinic outside of Moscow.
The Kremlin broadcast pictures of Putin, who was dressed in a dark suit, and Sergei Shoigu, the defense minister, who was dressed in uniform.
In front of a line of guys wearing blue hospital scrubs, some of whom were in wheelchairs, the officials stood.
As he pinned a medal on one of the men, the 70-year-old Russian leader said: “I congratulate you.”
“I serve Russia,” the soldier replied, shaking Putin’s hand.
The meeting appeared to take place under heavy security.
The TASS news agency said Putin presented the commander of a rifle platoon the “Hero of Russia Star” — a Soviet-era medal that is the highest award in Russia.
Putin has visited with the military personnel involved in the operation only sporadically in the more than a year since Moscow began its incursion in Ukraine.
He made an appearance with what the Kremlin claimed to be soldiers during his New Year’s Eve speech that signaled the end of 2022.
In May of last year, he had visited wounded soldiers.