MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russian forces were improving their positions every day along the front in Ukraine in all directions and that the advance was going to plan.

Russia has been pushing Ukrainian forces back at key points along the front line in recent months despite hundreds of billions of dollars worth of aid from the United States and its allies.

Putin, at a meeting in the Kremlin with Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, Secretary of the Security Council Sergei Shoigu and top generals, said the work of the military was “proceeding according to the plan” approved by the General Staff.

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“The more effectively you work on the front line, the more chances we have to resolve this issue peacefully,” Putin told the generals. “This is what we have always been striving for, and I have always spoken about it.”

Putin thanked Shoigu for his previous work in the role of defence minister. He said “many things were not clear before the outbreak of hostilities” and said Shoigu would help him manage the military and security sections of the state.

Speaking of Belousov, his newly appointed defence minister, who was dressed in a suit, Putin said he had appointed Belousov due to rising defence and security spending which he said would amount to 8.7% of gross domestic product or a little more. That is still below the Soviet level of 13% in the mid-1980s.

“This is certainly not 13 percent, as was the case in the Soviet Union, but it is still a solid amount, it is a large resource, and we must use it very carefully and efficiently,” Putin said.

“This relationship between the ‘cannon’ and ‘butter’ should be organically integrated into the overall development strategy of the Russian state.”

Putin then praised Belousov for his economic experience and for working on the development of drones and other unmanned vehicles.

The Russian leader said there would be no changes to the army’s General Staff. Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov attended the meeting.

“I want it to be clear to everyone. This unit of combat work has developed, it functions rhythmically, operates successfully, and no changes are expected here,” Putin said of the General Staff.

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