Russia says it will deploy musicians to the front lines of its war in Ukraine in a bid to boost morale.
The defence ministry announced the formation of the “front-line creative brigade” this week, saying it would include both vocalists and musicians.
The UK’s ministry of defence highlighted the brigade’s creation in an intelligence update on Sunday.
In a statement posted to Telegram, the defence ministry said Mr Shoigu “flew around the areas of deployment of troops and checked the advanced positions of Russian units in the zone of the special military operation”.
It added that he “spoke with troops on the frontline” and at a “command post” – but the BBC cannot confirm when the visit took place or whether Mr Shoigu visited Ukraine itself.
The reported visit comes as UK defence officials said low morale continues to be a “significant vulnerability across much of the Russian force”.
The UK said the new creative brigade – which follows a recent campaign, urging the public to donate musical instruments to troops – is in keeping with the historic use of “military music and organised entertainment” to boost morale.
But they questioned whether the new brigade would actually distract troops, who have been primarily concerned about “very high casualty rates, poor leadership, pay problems, lack of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war’s objectives”.
According to the Russian outlet RBC news, the brigade will consist of troops mobilised under President Vladimir Putin’s recruitment drive, as well as “professional artists who voluntarily entered military service”.
The new unit will be tasked with maintaining “a high moral, political and psychological state [among] the participants of the special military operation,” the outlet cited the defence ministry as saying.
Meanwhile, intense fighting has continued around the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donbas region on Saturday, Ukraine’s general staff said.
The areas has seen heavy clashes between Ukrainian and Russian troops for months, as Russia seeks to retain territory following a string of defeats in eastern Ukraine earlier this year.
Western intelligence officials have previously said Russian attacks on the town are being spearheaded by the private military contractor, Wagner Group.
Moscow hopes to use the town as a staging ground to launch attacks on the Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
Elsewhere, heating has been restored to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, after Russian launched widespread strikes on Friday that targeted power and water infrastructure, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Moscow launched 76 missiles on Friday, hitting nine power supply stations and plunging much of the country into darkness. Ukraine said it intercepted 60.
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