Putin scrambles to shore up support with desperate visit to Ukraine

Putin's visit to Ukraine 'desperate' show of control says expert

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Vladimir Putin is expected to soon make his first trip to the frontline in the war with Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in late February. The Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that President Putin will visit the Donbas in occupied eastern Ukraine “in due time”. However, former CIA official Steve Hall suggested that the forthcoming visit is a desperate move from the Russian leader amid falling support for the war at home.

Earlier today, the latest intelligence briefing from the British Ministry of Defence revealed that public support in Russia for the war was “falling significantly”.

Discussing the expected visit, the former CIA chief in Russia dismissed claims that it would show how Russia has secured parts of its annexed territories in Ukraine.

He told CNN: “I don’t think it is an indication of his security, I think it is an indication of his really strong desire to show Russians that this is part of Russia.

“Remember, he told Russians that he had annexed this part of Ukraine but he does not really control the annexed territories.”

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Mr Hall continued: “Many Russians know they have lost control, or have questions about the Russian control.

“So Putin wants to show that this is indeed part of Russia.”

As another reason, Mr Hall suggested that President Putin is “irritated to see a steady flow of Western visitors in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine when his military is not doing very well in the parts he claims to control”.

Despite the Kremlin’s pronouncement, it is not clear when the Russian president will visit the frontline, or how much of the Donbas his army will still hold when he gets there.

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The current Russian frontline in the Donbas has been described as a “meat grinder” as offensives on Bakhmut lose a significant number of soldiers with minimal gains.

It is thought that Ukrainian special forces could pose a threat to President Putin during any visit to the front.

The Russian leader may also have to contend with Russian troops suffering low morale.

Meanwhile, the latest MoD briefing cited an independent Russian media outlet, which obtained a confidential opinion survey conducted by the Federal Protection Service in Russia.

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The survey, commissioned by the Kremlin itself, found that 55 percent of respondents backed peace talks with Ukraine while 25 percent wanted the war to continue.

The MoD stated: “Despite the Russian authorities’ efforts to enforce pervasive control of the information environment, the conflict has become increasingly tangible for many Russians since the September 2022 partial mobilisation.

“With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war amongst the population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin.”

Informal interviews on the streets of Moscow this week showed that Russians largely rebuked Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, in a sign that the tide is turning against the Kremlin’s war.

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