President meets troops facing down Russia’s offensive as Putin warns of difficulties in partly-occupied regions.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made an unannounced visit to Bakhmut, an embattled city in the country’s east that has been under relentless Russian attacks for several months.

Zelenskyy’s office said on Tuesday he had met and spoken with military personnel during the visit to the front-line city and handed out awards to Ukrainian servicemen.

Bakhmut has remained in Ukrainian hands during Russia’s 300-day-long offensive, thwarting Moscow’s goal of capturing the entirety of the Donetsk region and the wider Donbas

But Zelenskyy said earlier this month that Russia’s efforts to conquer the city – whose pre-war population of 70,000-80,000 people has now shrunk to close to 10,000 – have turned it into ruins.

“The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian army turned into burned ruins,” he said last week.

Taking Bakhmut would rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, which are key Ukrainian strongholds in the region.