The presidents of Ukraine and Russia each handed out medals on Tuesday: President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the besieged japanese metropolis of Bakhmut to acknowledge Ukrainian troopers as artillery thundered within the distance, whereas President Vladimir V. Putin honored Russian occupation figures and propaganda leaders contained in the secure, gilded halls of the Kremlin.
The distinction captured the intractability of a struggle that started 300 days in the past, with Mr. Zelensky flashing contemporary defiance and Mr. Putin signaling no letup in his assault.
Whereas Russian forces are digging in throughout a lot of the 600-mile entrance after a collection of battlefield defeats, Moscow has stepped up its assaults on Ukrainian infrastructure with wave after wave of missile and drone strikes geared toward plunging the nation into darkness.
On the battlefield, Russia’s repeated assaults on Bakhmut, a metropolis that was as soon as residence to 70,000 within the japanese Donbas area, have been relentless and catastrophic, evoking photos of the wastelands left after the deadliest battles of World Conflict I.
Mr. Zelensky set out within the early morning for maybe his most harmful journey to the entrance traces for the reason that combating started in February, touring greater than 440 miles from the capital. Carrying a plain army-green jacket, he presented medals to soldiers in combat uniform, and posed for images with the troopers as he saluted their “superhuman” braveness.
“The east is holding out as a result of Bakhmut is combating,” he told the troops, including: “In fierce battles and at the price of many lives, freedom is being defended right here for all of us.”
Mr. Zelensky continued his reward for Ukraine’s defenders in his nightly address, during which he famous that he had left Donetsk.
Mr. Putin’s parallel awards ceremony featured extra pomp and circumstance — and fewer danger. It got here hours after Mr. Putin launched a video message addressed to the staff of Russian safety companies during which he warned that the state of affairs in Russian-held components of Ukraine was “extraordinarily troublesome.”
And it appeared geared at displaying Ukraine and its Western allies that Mr. Putin was decided to proceed his combat, regardless of what American officers say are Russian casualties now exceeding 100,000 useless and wounded.
These honored on the Kremlin on Tuesday in a televised occasion included a few of Russia’s most high-profile, pro-war figures. There have been the Russian-installed leaders of the 4 Ukrainian areas that Mr. Putin illegally annexed in September, regardless of a lot of the realm nonetheless being below Ukrainian management. There was Semyon Pegov, a broadly learn Russian struggle blogger who was injured in Ukraine. And there was Margarita Simonyan, the hard-line editor of one of many Kremlin’s most vital propaganda retailers, the RT tv community.
“Thanks for wresting our folks out of the bloody mouths of those man-eaters, regardless of the ache and the blood,” Ms. Simonyan mentioned on the ceremony, in an obvious reference to the Kremlin’s false declare that Ukraine has been perpetrating a genocide in opposition to Russian audio system. “And we are going to assist you to whack these man-eaters as a lot as you demand it from us.”
It was a reminder that Russia’s powerful propaganda apparatus, like Mr. Putin himself, is more and more acknowledging Russia’s struggles on the entrance, despite the fact that it continues to hide the extent of the army’s losses. On the similar time, it’s presenting the struggle as existential — claiming that the true enemy is a NATO that seeks Russia’s destruction — and attempting to arrange Russians for additional sacrifice.
On Tuesday, Mr. Putin appeared unwilling to cede the highlight to Mr. Zelensky. Russian media outlets issued stories saying that the Russian chief had visited the “particular navy operation zone” — the Kremlin’s time period for the struggle zone — final Friday.
Mr. Putin, in a short speech on the finish of the ceremony on Tuesday, mentioned these have been “troublesome, uncommon instances,” and praised Russian troopers as “heroes.”
“When a rustic and even each particular person develops, strikes ahead, it all the time overcomes sure difficulties on this path,” Mr. Putin mentioned. “However immediately, it’s certainly being accompanied by specific challenges.”