Kyiv: President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Donetsk, a frontline area in eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday. He described the fighting there as "difficult," with Russian forces attempting to seize the commercial city of Bakhmut.
The visit happened at the same time that Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his security council in response to the most recent wave of drone attacks on locations with a military connection inside Russian territory.
After Kiev's forces retook the southern city of Kherson last month after a Russian retreat from the regional capital, the focus of fighting in Ukraine has shifted to Donbas.
In a video, Zelensky could be seen standing next to a sizable sign bearing the name Sloviansk and the colours of Ukraine while donning a thick winter coat. He also called for a moment of silence to remember fallen Ukrainian soldiers.
The most challenging front right now is in eastern Ukraine. And I'm grateful to be here right now with our Donbass defence forces. The next time, I think we'll meet in Crimea as well as Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine, Zelensky said.
Since fighting with separatists broke out in 2014 and the Kremlin annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, Russian forces and their proxies have had control over portions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
I congratulate you on this wonderful holiday, the Day of the Armed Forces," Zelensky said. He was later shown congratulating soldiers and presenting awards.
Six civilians were killed and other people were injured by Ukrainian shelling, according to the mayor of the nearby Russian-controlled city of Donetsk, who was appointed by Moscow.
After more than nine months of fighting, the Ukrainian president has visited several frontline areas, including Kherson in the south, which Ukrainian forces recently retook. He described Kherson's retake as "the beginning of the end of the war."
Sloviansk, one of the parts of Donetsk briefly held by separatists backed by Russia, is located about 45 kilometres (28 miles) north of Bakhmut, the main area of conflict since Kherson's fall.
According to the Kremlin, Putin met with senior officials to discuss matters pertaining to "domestic security" and that Russia was taking "necessary" steps to thwart additional attacks from what it claimed were Ukrainian forces.
Officials in the Russian region of Kursk, which is close to the Ukrainian border, claimed earlier on Tuesday that an oil storage facility fire was started by a drone attack near an airfield.
The defence ministry had earlier reported that Ukraine had attempted to attack an additional airfield in the Ryazan region as well as the crucial Engels airfield in the Saratov region.
Both locations are hundreds of kilometres away from Ukraine's border, and Engels is a base for the nation's strategic aircraft that Kyiv claims have been used to strike Ukraine.
According to the British Defense Ministry, Moscow will "probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine" if it decides that Ukraine is to blame.
The drone attacks follow weeks of deliberate Russian attacks that have destroyed vital Ukrainian infrastructure, including water, electricity, and heating, just before winter.
On Monday, Russia launched another barrage of numerous missiles that disrupted water and electricity in cities all over Ukraine. Moscow has claimed that Kyiv is to blame for the attacks because it has refused Russian demands.
On Tuesday, Russian forces were using long-range, precise weapons to target infrastructure with a military component and "crush the military potential of Ukraine," according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The defence ministry also disclosed on Tuesday that in their most recent exchange, 60 Russian servicemen had been returned from Ukrainian captivity.
Thousands of Russians have left the country as a result of the invasion and the decision to draught hundreds of thousands of men, including politicians and journalists who were critical of the government.
The exiled independent TV channel Dozhd, however, had its licence revoked by neighbouring Latvia on Tuesday due to a number of infractions, including the broadcast of the Crimean Peninsula's annexation by Russia.
Ivars Abolins, president of the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council, stated on Twitter that "everyone must respect the laws of Latvia."