Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday inspected a training ground for mobilised troops and was shown firing shots from a sniper rifle in footage apparently intended to show his personal backing for soldiers heading to fight in Ukraine.
Putin was accompanied on the trip to Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who reported to him on how the men were being trained, the Kremlin said.
Footage showed a figure who appeared to be Putin lying flat on the ground and firing from a rifle. In the next frame, Putin was seen dusting down his overcoat, slapping a soldier on the shoulder and wishing him good luck.
The visit came a day after Putin raised Russia’s war footing and declared martial law in four occupied regions of Ukraine that he moved to annex last month in a step condemned as illegal by Ukraine, its allies and the United Nations General Assembly.
Faced with a series of defeats in the war, Putin last month declared a “partial mobilisation” to call up hundreds of thousands of extra troops.
Putin said last Friday the mobilisation would be over within two weeks. On Thursday he ordered all Russia’s regions to do more to support army needs and stressed that all mobilised men needed to be sent to the front with proper equipment.
It has proceeded chaotically, with frequent cases of call-up papers going out to the wrong men, and even Putin has been forced to acknowledge mistakes. Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled abroad to escape being drafted.