President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited the embattled japanese city of Avdiivka, his workplace stated on Tuesday, after the Kremlin introduced that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had once more traveled to occupied areas of Ukraine close to the entrance line, as each leaders sought to show power and rally their troops.
The split-screen pictures got here forward of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive to take again territory seized by Russian troops. The journeys additionally occurred because the battle for the important thing japanese metropolis of Bakhmut intensified, with Moscow launching airstrikes and attacking from a number of instructions concurrently, a Ukrainian common stated.
Mr. Putin visited the southern area of Kherson and the japanese Luhansk area, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, stated. It was the Russian chief’s second journey shut to the entrance line in a month. Military analysts say that Ukraine would possibly goal Kherson and Luhansk in its counteroffensive.
Mr. Zelensky introduced his go to on Tuesday in a submit on the social messaging app Telegram. But it was not instantly clear when Mr. Putin made his journey, although Mr. Peskov and the Kremlin stated it was on Monday. The Russian chief appeared in completely different garments in two elements of his journey and might be heard in video footage launched by Moscow talking together with his commanders concerning the upcoming Easter, which the Orthodox Church celebrated on Sunday.
His comment, which appeared in a video broadcast by Russian state media, was faraway from later variations. Mr. Peskov stated that Mr. Putin had meant the Easter season, which lasts a number of weeks, and insisted that the journey had taken place on Monday.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, denounced Mr. Putin’s journey, saying on Twitter that it was little greater than a “special tour” of an space that Russia’s chief had ruined when he ordered the full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022.
During his journey to the city of Avdiivka — which Russian forces have being attempting to seize for greater than a yr, leaving it in ruins and forcing nearly all of its residents to flee — Mr. Zelensky sat with troops and wished them a contented Orthodox Easter, his workplace stated.
The Ukrainian chief made two journeys in two straight days to the entrance line in March, in a present of resolve and to thank troopers on the entrance line. He made an unannounced go to close to the Bakhmut space, and that very same month, he visited areas in the Kherson area ravaged by Russia’s marketing campaign to destroy vitality infrastructure.
In December, Mr. Zelensky additionally went to Bakhmut, which has grow to be a potent image of Ukrainian resistance in the face of Moscow’s ceaseless assault.
The two visits this week had been introduced as combating has intensified, together with in Bakhmut, the place the Russian Defense Ministry stated on Monday that its troops had captured two extra areas in the south and northwest of town, though the declare couldn’t be verified.
“The Bakhmut sector remains the epicenter of the fighting,” the commander of Kyiv’s floor forces, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, stated on Tuesday on Telegram.
“Currently, the enemy is increasing the activity of heavy artillery and the number of airstrikes, turning the city into ruins,” General Syrsky stated. But Ukrainian forces stay in management, he added.
Fighting additionally raged in Avdiivka, the place Russian assaults have destroyed complete neighborhoods and almost minimize off entry to humanitarian support for its remaining residents. The metropolis as soon as had a inhabitants of 30,000, however many have fled. Ukrainian officers estimate about 1,800 residents are refusing to evacuate.
After Mr. Putin’s journey to Kherson, Russian forces a shelled a market in the middle of Kherson City, killing one particular person and wounding at the least six others, the top of Mr. Zelensky’s workplace, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Telegram.
In all, Russian forces had launched 342 shells on the Kherson area in the earlier 24 hours, Oleksandr Prokudin, the regional navy administration head, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday.
Mr. Putin final visited occupied areas of Ukraine a month in the past, touring to Crimea and town of Mariupol — a day after a global courtroom issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of struggle crimes.
This time, he appeared to have traveled beneath a veil of secrecy and with out his ordinary variety of employees, which usually contains photographers and video operators. The Kremlin launched grainy, shaky video footage of the journey.
Mr. Putin took a navy helicopter to Kherson, although it was unclear the place precisely he visited. Photographs and video launched by Russian state media confirmed him rising from a helicopter that had landed in a rural space on the japanese aspect of the Dnipro River.
Mr. Putin additionally visited Russian navy headquarters in Luhansk, the Kremlin stated in a statement. The Russian president was not accompanied by his protection minister, Sergei Ok. Shoigu, or by the chief of the overall employees of the navy, Valery V. Gerasimov, in accordance to footage broadcast by the state media.
In opening remarks, Mr. Putin instructed navy commanders, “It was important for me to listen to your opinion about the current situation, to share information.”
Russia seized Kherson City, the regional capital, in March final yr, when its troops superior north from Crimea and crossed over the Dnipro with nearly no opposition. It was the one time since Moscow’s full-scale invasion that it had seized a regional capital.
That success lasted however a couple of months.
Last summer season, the Ukrainian authorities chosen the Kherson area for its first main counteroffensive. Armed with navy support from the United States and different allies, it focused Russian forces and navy infrastructure in the province with rockets and fought intense battles throughout the province on each side of the river.
Moscow had stationed tens of hundreds of troops in Kherson City, however with key bridges destroyed or impassable, they turned uncovered. Before a full-scale battle for town started, Russian commanders ordered a withdrawal to the east river financial institution in November. Ukrainian forces then entered town of Kherson and retook a lot of the Kharkiv area in September.
Having retreated, Russian forces are nonetheless pounding Kherson City and surrounding areas held by Ukraine with a every day barrage of rocket hearth, killing civilians, damaging cities and villages and making the resumption of regular life nearly inconceivable.
Ukrainian officers and navy consultants say Russia has been build up its forces in the Kherson space, laying mines, growing troop numbers and establishing defensive limitations in anticipation of Ukrainian assaults.
Kyiv has stored the situation and timing of any counteroffensive beneath wraps, however a marketing campaign to retake land in the south might, if profitable, imply that Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, turns into divided from the territory that Russia holds in japanese Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops have additionally been squeezed into defending a piece of the western a part of Bakhmut as Russian forces have made regular advances on town in months of bloody combating.
“This is where the enemy is concentrating most of its efforts and is determined to take control of the city at any cost,” General Syrsky stated.
Russia started its assault on Bakhmut final summer season, and the battle has led to heavy casualties on each side, although navy consultants say Russian losses are considerably greater.
If Russian forces seize all of Bakhmut, it could mark their first seizure of a key metropolis in months.
Britain’s protection secretary, Ben Wallace, on Tuesday expressed confidence in Ukraine’s deliberate counteroffensive, however signaled that the struggle would probably proceed into subsequent yr.
“I’m optimistic that between this year and next year, I think Ukraine will continue to have the momentum with it and a position of strength,” Mr. Wallace instructed reporters in Washington. “I also think we should be realistic: There is not going to be a single magic-wand moment when Russia collapses.”
Eric Schmitt, Yousur Al-Hlou and Masha Froliak contributed reporting.