Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes a counteroffensive could turn the tide of the war in his country. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to determine when that push might come. The two have made visits to their troops to shore up morale.
Zelenskyy traveled to the Donetsk region on Tuesday to meet with soldiers in the war-torn city of Avdiivka, a place some have described as "post-apocalyptic." The troops have seen Russian forces level block after block. Zelenskyy honored those defending the frontlines and those who have fallen.
According to TASS, Russian forces have taken control of almost 90% of the city of Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine), Yan Gagin, an advisor to the Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DPR) leader, told TASS on Tuesday.
"The Wagner private military company controls about 90% of Artyomovsk and its advance is inevitable," he said.
Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on April 11 that Russian forces controlled more than 80% of Artyomovsk, including all administrative buildings.
Gagin specified that Ukrainian troops were booby-trapping and blowing up major infrastructure facilities before leaving the western outskirts of Artyomovsk. "The Ukrainian armed forces are okay with using scorched earth tactics. This is what they did in Volnovakha and Mariupol, and now, they are blowing up and booby-trapping major infrastructure facilities in Artyomovsk before retreating from the western outskirts of the city. A local community center was one of the buildings that they blew up recently," Gagin noted.
Earlier, he told TASS that Ukraine was redeploying troops to Artyomovsk but the majority of new soldiers were getting killed on their approach to the city.
Artyomovsk, located in the Kiev-controlled part of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), is an important transport hub in terms of Ukrainian military supplies. Heavy fighting is raging in the area.
However, Zelenskyy said, "It is a pleasure to see you, shake your strong hands and know that, in those hands, you hold the future of Ukraine."
The Kremlin announced on Tuesday that Putin visited the eastern regions of Kherson and Luhansk, which he annexed in September 2022. He met with officers and said it is important to him to hear their views on the fighting.
Putin has tried to offset Western isolation of Russia by reaching out to partners. His defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, met with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu, in Moscow on Tuesday. They vowed to take military cooperation to a "new level."