A video released by the Kremlin and broadcast by Russian state television showed Russian President Vladimir Putin arriving by helicopter at the command post for Russian forces in the southern Kherson region and afterwards flying to the headquarters of the Russian National Guard of the eastern Luhansk region.
In the clip, the Russian leader appeared “anxious” and “troubled”, according to body language expert Judi James.
The leading communication and body language expert told Express.co.uk: “The projected message from his body language in these clips seems to tie in with the sentiments of his recent address to the nation, i.e. he adopts the demeanour of a troubled, serious and sombre man rather than a proud or defiant leader.
“There is no alpha showboating or power-posturing here, no moment on the steps of the helicopter to signal defiance or strength to the world, just a lowered head and a frown, plus some subliminal signals of anxiety. His lower face is even part-hidden by his collar.
“As he leaves the helicopter he rests heavily on his right arm so that nearly the entire forearm seems to be supporting him on the stair rail as he attempts a bouncy descent. His left arm is in its customary redundant position, which is a trait he has favoured for years.
“As he greets the soldier his right arm pulls round forward in front of his torso in what looks like a protective gesture. He seems keen to pull his jacket down and performs an unusual and emphatic stomach pat that suggests some anxiety.
“Getting out of the car his weight is heavily on his right hand and again we see the pulling of the jacket and stomach-patting. His mouth seems to move in a way that suggests dryness or some heavy swallowing, which could be caused by adrenalin.”
Dressed in a dark suit, Putin appeared to chair the meetings with his military top brass. It was his second trip in two months to the Russian-occupied territories in the neighbouring country.
The locations of the military headquarters in the Kherson and Luhansk regions were not disclosed, so it was not possible to assess how close they are to the front line.
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Russia’s war in Ukraine has turned into a stalemate amid heavy fighting in the country’s east, particularly around the town of Bakhmut, which for eight and a half months has been the stage for the war’s longest and bloodiest fight.
In both locations, Putin congratulated the military on Orthodox Easter, which was celebrated Sunday and presented them with icons.
Russia annexed the Kherson and Luhansk regions along with the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions in September in a move that was rejected by much of the world as illegal.
Last month, Putin visited the Russian-held Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol, which was captured by Russian troops in May after two months of fierce fighting.
Putin’s trips to the military headquarters come as Ukraine is preparing for a new counteroffensive to reclaim the occupied territories.
Ukrainian officials have said they’re buying time by depleting Russian forces in the battle while Kyiv prepares a counteroffensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has argued that if Russia wins the Bakhmut battle, it could allow Putin to begin building international support for a deal that would require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises to end the war.