Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits frontline cities as Russia resumes strikes against Ukraine’s capital Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Lysychansk and Soledar, two towns close to some of the most intense fighting between his country’s troops and Russian forces.

Meanwhile, in the capital Kyiv, Russian missiles struck for the first time in over a month.

The besieged city of Lysychansk lies a few kilometers south of Sievierodonetsk, where one of the biggest land battles of the war is taking place and which Ukraine claims to regain control of.

“I went with the head of [my] east office. We were in Lysychansk and Soledar,” Mr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Sunday, adding that he would not give details of the visit.

In two separate videos released later, Mr Zelenskyy, dressed in his trademark khaki t-shirt, is shown speaking to troops in confined bunker-like structures, presenting some of the awards and addressing d ‘others.

Reuters was unable to immediately confirm whether the videos were recorded in Lysychansk and Soledar.

The trips that were publicly revealed on Sunday were rare outings by Mr Zelenskyy outside the capital Kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 and may be the closest to the front line yet.

Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk are in Luhansk region and Soledar is in Donetsk region. The two areas make up the wider Donbass region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, which Russia claims is on a mission to “liberate”.

Ukraine says it is fighting for its survival even against an imperial Russian-style land grab. Observers say achieving the targets in the east is necessary for Russian President Vladimir Putin to claim success in the military operation.

Visit to Zaporizhzhia

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Zelenskyy said he visited frontline troops in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, whose governor says 60% of the area is under Russian occupation.

“I want to thank you for your great work, for your service, for protecting us all, our state,” the statement quoted Mr. Zelenskyy as saying, adding that he had observed a minute’s silence for the fallen troops.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy met displaced people from Mariupol during a visit to Zaporizhzhia.(Reuters: Ukrainian Presidential News Service)

Zelenskyy’s office later said the president also visited a medical facility in the area and spoke with people forced from their homes, including from Mariupol, which is now in Russian hands. after being besieged for weeks.

He promised to act to ensure that all displaced people would be properly relocated.

“We’re really going to help you solve this problem,” the president’s office quoted him as saying.

Smoke rises after missile strike in Kyiv
Officials said the Russian strike appeared to be aimed at the rail network.(Reuters: Vladislav Sodel)

Missiles fired at the Ukrainian capital

Black smoke could be seen several kilometers away after Russia’s missile attack on two outlying Kyiv neighborhoods early on Sunday.

Ukraine said the strike hit a railcar repair yard; Moscow said it destroyed tanks sent by Eastern European countries to Ukraine.

At least one person was hospitalized although no deaths were immediately reported.

The strike was a sudden reminder of war in a capital where normal life has largely returned since Russian forces were forced from its outskirts in March.

“The Kremlin is resorting to new insidious attacks. Today’s missile strikes on Kyiv have only one goal: to kill as many people as possible,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

The interior of a destroyed factory full of rubble.
Ukraine said the missile strike damaged a railcar repair facility. (Reuters: Valentin Ogirenko)

Ukraine said Russia carried out the attack using long-range air-launched missiles fired from heavy bombers as far away as the Caspian Sea.

Ukraine’s nuclear operator said a Russian cruise missile flew past the country’s second-largest nuclear power plant.

Sunday’s attack was the first major strike on Kyiv since late April, when a missile killed a journalist.

In recent weeks, Russia has concentrated its destructive power mainly on the eastern and southern frontlines, though Moscow occasionally strikes elsewhere in what it calls a campaign to degrade Ukraine’s military infrastructure. and to block Western arms shipments.

Ukraine claims to have recaptured half of a key city

After recapturing part of Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian forces now controlled half of it and continued to push back the Russians, said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, which includes the city.

“They will just try to level everything. They have no other tactic,” Gaidai said of the Russians.

The claims could not be independently verified. Both sides say they have inflicted huge casualties on Sievierodonetsk, in a battle that could determine which side carries the momentum in a protracted war of attrition in the months to come.

In another sign that Ukraine has held back the Russian advance, Gaidai said evacuations resumed from the Ukrainian part of Luhansk province on Sunday and 98 people escaped.

Russian forces have been trying for weeks to cut off the main road to encircle Ukrainian troops there, and evacuations were halted last week after a journalist was killed by shelling.

A Russian state media reporter said on Sunday that Russian Major General Roman Kutuzov had been killed in eastern Ukraine, adding to Moscow’s string of high-ranking military casualties.

Ukraine’s military reported that its forces repelled seven attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Sunday, destroying four tanks and downing a helicopter gunship.

In Donetsk, Russian forces have in recent days advanced into territory north of the Siverskiy Donets River, ahead of what Ukraine anticipates could be a push on the major city of Sloviansk.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that Ukrainian counterattacks in Sievierodonetsk in the past 24 hours were likely to blunt any operational momentum Russia has gained.

Moscow was deploying ill-equipped separatist fighters to the city to limit the risk to its regular forces, he said.

Britain has announced that it will supply Ukraine with multiple rocket launcher systems that can hit targets up to 80 km away.

In a speech in Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis noted that more than 100 days had passed since “the beginning of the armed aggression against Ukraine”, and called the war a “negation of God’s dream”. .

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Australian volunteers among foreign soldiers in the fight against Russia.


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Christi C. Elwood