President Zelenskyy greets a Ukrainian soldier in the frontline city of Bakhmut (Photo: Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Bakhmut, the frontline city that Vladimir Putin has been trying to conquer for months in vain.

The leader of the attacked nation told the troops, “Ukraine is proud of you. I’m proud of you. Thank you for the courage, resilience and strength you have shown in repelling enemy attacks.”

The Kremlin has poured enormous resources into taking Bakhmut, which is less than a third the size of Milton Keynes with a pre-war population of 73,000.

Control of the city would allow Russia to set up supply lines for attacks on the two remaining Ukrainian-controlled capitals of the Donbass, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

It was reduced to rubble by rocket attacks, but the Ukrainian army held out. And Mr. Zelensky said mercenaries from the notorious Wagner group in Moscow could not turn the tide there after the regular Russian army suffered huge losses.

Zelenskyy took the time to meet and hand over troops to Ukrainian military personnel (Photo: EPA)

“Since May, the occupiers have been trying to break our Bakhmut, but time passes and Bakhmut breaks not only the Russian army, but also the Russian mercenaries who come to replace the wasted army of the occupiers,” the president said.

Russia has attacked 19 towns and villages in 24 hours in the Donetsk region, which Bakhmut is part of, Kiev says. And the continued bombardment of Luhansk is pushing the province to the brink of disaster, Governor Serhiy Haidai said. Many live there in basements with no heating, food or medicine and are forced to burn furniture to keep warm.

Britain will send 15,000 cold weather units and 900 generators to help troops get through the winter, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.