(MENAFN- Gulf Times) President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday that he visited military positions near the frontline town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, as a Russian strike battered a residential building leaving dozens injured.
At least one person was killed and 32 more injured in the block of flats in Zaporizhzhia, a city near the frontline, just before Zelensky announced his visit to the front, the mayor said.
And officials announced the death toll from a separate overnight drone attack by Russia on a school south of the capital Kyiv had risen to seven, with another nine injured.
During the visit to the front near Bakhmut - the longest and bloodiest battle of Russia's invasion - Zelensky recognised the troops had a“difficult” task.
“I am honoured to be here today to award our heroes. To shake hands and thank them for protecting the sovereignty of our country.”
Video released by Zelensky's office showed him meeting servicemen in a warehouse and handing out state decorations.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have invested heavily in the battle for Bakhmut, even though analysts say the city carries little strategic value.
Kyiv says the battle for the industrial town, which had a pre-war population of around 80,000 people, is key to holding back Russian forces along the entire eastern front.
In a separate post, Zelensky said he also visited troops being treated for frontline injuries, and video showed him touring a hospital with doctors and greeting recovering soldiers.
The Ukrainian leader visited Bakhmut late last year, just ahead of a historic trip to the United States, his first trip abroad since the start of Russia's invasion last February.
But Russian forces have posted steady gains towards capturing Bakhmut in the months since.
An aide to the Russian-appointed head of the eastern Donetsk region in Ukraine said Wednesday that Russian forces were close to cutting off Ukraine road links to the city.
“We can say that the city is practically blocked,” the aide, Yan Gagin, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which claims to be spearheading Moscow's offensive for the town, said this week that his forces control some 70% of Bakhmut.
Zelensky also distributed images of the strike on Zaporizhzhia, showing a projectile smashing into the residential building and a large plume of black smoke rising over a building.
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