"The Motherland gave us all, including me, the opportunity and rewarded us with the opportunity to work for our country and our people," Putin said during the ceremony, according to the publication. "This is a reward from the Motherland for each of us. And we all, including myself, will go to the end, defending the country's interests."
Putin was seen "swigging champagne" during the ceremony on Dec. 19 while he also delivered a speech lauding the efforts of individual servicemen in the Russian military.
He commended personnel of various ranks for their sacrifices, acknowledging their commitment to advancing the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. "It is very important for me, of course, to hear this from people who are right there, on the front line," Putin said.
With the Russian elections scheduled for this spring, Putin has been striving to portray the war in Ukraine in a positive light. Despite his calls for intensified attacks, there are indications of challenges faced by his military.
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A recent intelligence briefing by Britain's Ministry of Defence focused on the "Shtorm-Z" units, revealing it's "highly likely" that some personnel in these units have returned to combat with unhealed wounds, including amputations.
Shtorm-Z units, previously disclosed to include convicted criminals and murderers, may receive pardons after serving six months on the frontlines.
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As of Dec. 20, Ukraine's Ministry of Defense reported 349,190 Russian personnel eliminated in the war, along with substantial losses in tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, fighter jets, helicopters and drones.
Additionally, Russia's military has faced embarrassing incidents, including a reported case of "friendly fire" resulting in the downing of a Russian jet. Despite Russia initially attributing the incident to a Ukrainian Su-25, subsequent claims asserted that the plane had crashed, The U.S. Sun reported.
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