Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday vowed he would lead Ukraine to victory in its war against Russia when he visited recently recaptured cities – while pro-Russian officials claimed to have halted Kiev’s forces for the time being.
Russian forces suffered a stunning turnaround this month after Ukrainian troops launched a swift armored push into the northeastern Kharkiv region, forcing a precipitous and chaotic Russian retreat.
Ukraine’s President yesterday paid a surprise visit to Izium – until five days ago Russia’s main bastion and logistics hub in the region – where he watched as the Ukrainian flag was raised in front of the charred city council building.
“Our blue and yellow flag is already flying in unoccupied Izium. And that will be the case in every Ukrainian city and village,” Zelensky said in a social media post.
No building on the thoroughfare was unscathed: a dilapidated bathhouse had blasted a hole in its side; Butcher shops, pharmacies, a shoe store and a beauty salon were sprayed with shrapnel.
“The prospect is shocking, but not shocking to me,” he told reporters, comparing the scenes of devastation to those in towns near Kyiv retaken by Russian forces earlier in the war. “The same buildings destroyed, people killed.”
Early yesterday morning, an emotional-looking Mr. Zelensky presented medals to soldiers who took part in the operation to liberate the area in Balakliia, another town that has been retaken in recent days, where citizens and local police officers said civilians were during the months of Russian crew killed.
Reuters could not independently verify the claims. Russia denies targeting civilians.
Mr Zelensky said his army had liberated around 8,000 square kilometers of territory so far this month.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Mr Zelenskyj, said Ukrainian forces are now attempting to recapture the Russian-held town of Lyman in Ukraine’s Donetsk region and are seeking territorial gains in the neighboring Luhansk region, which is under Russian control.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said pro-Moscow troops had successfully pushed back Ukrainian forces trying to invade Lyman and the city’s north and south.
“Nothing worked out for the enemy,” Mr Pushilin said.
Ukraine’s sudden advances over the past week have cheered their Western supporters, although leaders have said it is too early to know if Kyiv can keep up the momentum.
“It is clear that Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long road,” said US President Joe Biden.
A day after spending 90 minutes on the phone with Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the Russian president “unfortunately” still doesn’t think his invasion was a mistake.
Russian forces still control about a fifth of Ukraine in the south and east, but Kyiv is now going on the offensive in both areas.
On the road to Izium, bus stops were daubed with “Z” marks, the symbol used by Russian forces to identify themselves, and the charred remains of tanks and armored personnel carriers lay by the roadside.
Liubov Sinna, 74, wore a pink hood around her face to keep warm and said residents were still anxious.
“We’ve waited a long time for our boys. Of course we feel positive. Joy. But there is also fear – fear that the Russians might come back here,” she said.
“Because we lived through those whole six months. We ate it in basements.
“We’ve been through everything you can go through.
“We absolutely cannot say that we feel safe.”
There is no gas, electricity or water service in the town, she added, saying she wasn’t sure how people would get through the winter.
Ukraine has accused Russia of targeting civilian infrastructure in recent days to cut off electricity, water and heat in retaliation for its battlefield losses.
Kirill Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said Russia fired eight cruise missiles at the southern city of Kryvyi Rih yesterday in a bid to cut off water supplies.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/emotional-ukrainian-president-volodymyr-zelensky-visits-newly-liberated-towns-and-vows-victory-41990621.html Emotional Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits newly liberated cities and vows victory