By Andrew Osborn and Olzhas Auyezov
(Reuters) -Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu appeared for the first time since a deal was struck on Saturday to end what the authorities had called an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group aimed at ousting him.
In a video released on Monday morning by the Russian Defence Ministry, Shoigu was shown flying in a plane with a colleague and hearing reports at a command post run by Russia’s Zapad (West) military grouping.
There was no sound on the video and it was not immediately clear where or when the visit had taken place.
Russia’s Zvezda Defence Ministry TV Channel said Shoigu, who looked physically unharmed and calm, had listened to a report by Colonel General Yevgeny Nikiforov, the group’s commander, about the current situation on the frontlines in Ukraine.
In his mutiny during which he seized control of Russia’s military headquarters in southern Russia, renegade Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had demanded that Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff, be handed over to him so that he could “restore justice.”
Prigozhin accused both men of gross incompetence and corruption and had long been agitating for their removal.
Gerasimov has not been seen since in public, and there was no word from the Kremlin about any new personnel changes when it described the deal which had ended the mutiny.
The Kremlin said the question of personnel changes was the sole prerogative of President Vladimir Putin and could hardly have been part of any deal.
Zvezda said Shoigu on his visit had heard about the formation of new reserve forces for the ‘Zapad’ military grouping and had noted what it called the Russian army’s “high efficiency” at “detecting and destroying enemy military equipment and accumulations of personnel in tactical areas.”
He had tasked them with continuing active reconnaissance in order to reveal the enemy’s plans to thwart Ukrainian forces’ movements far behind the frontlines, it said.
Zvezda said Shoigu had also paid particular attention to what it called “the organisation of all-round support for the troops involved in the Special Military Operation and the creation of conditions for the safe housing of personnel.”
Mutineers led by Prigozhin on Saturday advanced towards Moscow to remove what they called Russia’s corrupt and incompetent military leadership, before suddenly heading back to a Russia-held area of eastern Ukraine after a deal with the Kremlin brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
The deal, as publicly described by the Kremlin, saw criminal charges against the mutineers dropped in exchange for their return to camps. Prigozhin will relocate to Belarus under the agreement.
(Reporting by Reuters. Writing by Andrew Osborn Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)
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