Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Ukrainian forces near the front line in the eastern region of Donetsk where heavy fighting has been under way, the president’s office said on April 18, just hours after the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a rare trip to the partially occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Luhansk.
Zelenskiy toured the Ukrainian military’s advanced positions in Avdiyivka, which together with Bakhmut and Maryinka has been the focal point of Russia’s monthslong offensive that was met with fierce resistance by Kyiv’s forces, the presidential office said on April 18.
Zelenskiy met with troops, thanking them for their service, and presented them with military awards, his office said.
The announcement came just hours after the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin visited Russian military headquarters in Kherson and Luhansk.
“The president is conducting inspections of military headquarters and is getting current firsthand information on the spot about progress in the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, using the term Moscow has coined to describe its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter that Putin was touring “the occupied and ruined territories to enjoy the crimes of his minions for the last time.”
The Kremlin also released footage purportedly showing Putin receiving reports from military commanders in the Russian-controlled part of Kherson before traveling by helicopter to the headquarters of the Russian National Guard in the Luhansk region.
Russia in September announced the annexation of Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhya, Ukrainian regions — following what were widely considered to be sham referendums — that Moscow only partially controls, in a move rejected by most of the world as illegal.
The footage released by the Kremlin could not be independently verified.
Peskov told journalists that the president made the trip on April 17, although in the original Kremlin video, according to the Agentsvo publication, Putin could be seen and heard saying Orthodox Easter, celebrated on April 16, “will” be coming. However, the word “will” appears to have been subsequently edited from the footage.
“It was yesterday,” Peskov told journalists on April 18.
“The fact is that our Easter lasts 40 days and we continue celebrating it, now we have Easter week.”
On the battle front, Russian forces used aircraft to unleash fresh assaults on Ukrainian positions in the eastern Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military said on April 18.
Indiscriminate shelling of Luhansk and Kherson killed several civilians and caused extensive infrastructure damage, according to regional officials.
Over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military repelled more than 70 enemy attacks on Bakhmut and Maryinka, which remain the epicenter of hostilities, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily report.
IN PHOTOS: Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the front line in Bakhmut are rotated out for some much-needed rest and recuperation before they are sent back in.
The battle for Bakhmut in particular has turned into one of the bloodiest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with both sides reportedly suffering heavy casualties.
In the Luhansk region, Russian shelling killed at least three people and wounded one in the village of Novoyehorivka, the head of the regional military administration, Artem Lysohor, said on April 18.
Lysohor said that in recent days Russian forces have been continuously using aircraft to bomb liberated settlements in the area.
In the Kherson region, one person was killed and several others were wounded by Russian shelling, according to Oleh Prokudin, head of the regional military administration.