File Photo: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference in Kyiv on February 24, 2023, on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. AFP
"I would like to pay special tribute to the bravery, strength and resilience of the soldiers fighting in the Donbas," Zelensky said in his daily address, adding "this is one of the hardest battles. Painful and difficult."
The Donbas is made up of Donetsk and Lugansk, which Russia claims to have annexed despite never fully having controlled it.
Ukraine this week reported an increasingly difficult situation around Bakhmut that Russia is determined to seize as part of its wider aim of capturing the entire Donbas.
The city, whose symbolic importance outstripped its military significance as the battle dragged on, has been largely reduced to rubble.
Zelensky on Sunday thanked his troops, who "repelled assaults, destroyed the occupier, undermined enemy positions and logistics, and protected our borders and cities."
"I thank all the army, guardsmen, border guards who defend our state in the Bakhmut, Vugledar, Avdiivka, Siversk, Svatove, Lyman and Zaporizhzhia directions," Zelensky said.