Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes surprise visit to frontlines in Ukraine’s south

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has paid another visit to troops on the frontlines of his country’s war against Russia, praising soldiers holding forward positions as brave and hard-working and vowing the country will prevail.
A video posted to Mr Zelenskyy’s official Telegram account on Saturday showed the president in his trademark khaki t-shirt, handing out medals and posing for selfies with the troops in what appeared to be an underground shelter in the southern Mykolaiv region.

The president’s office did not say when he made his latest trip to see troops.

“Our brave men and women. Each one of them is working flat out,” Mr Zelenskyy said in the video. “We will definitely hold out! We will definitely win!”
Mr Zelenskyy has remained mostly in Kyiv the country on 24 February. But in recent weeks he has made unannounced visits to the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where there had earlier been heavy fighting, and to two eastern cities close to where battles are being fought.
There is also fighting on the eastern and southern edges of the Mykolaiv region in south Ukraine.
Mr Zelenskyy’s office said the president also visited the regional capital Mykolaiv and inspected its destroyed administration building, where 37 people were killed in late March when a missile blasted through the building.

Russian forces reached the outskirts of Mykolaiv in early March but were driven back.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy inspected damaged buildings when he visited the war-hit Mykolaiv region. Source: AP / Ukrainian Presidential Press Office

He also visited a hospital in Mykolaiv and awarded honours for bravery to Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych and governor Vitaliy Kim for their work during the four months of Russia’s invasion, his office said in separate statements.

His office underscored the strategic importance of the territory, which borders the Russia-occupied Kherson region.
“Mykolaiv region is a bridgehead for liberation of the Kherson region, which is a goal for every one of us,” said chief of staff Andriy Yermak on Telegram.

His office later said Mr Zelenskyy had also visited National Guard positions in Odesa region, where he thanked the troops for their service, saying “As long as you live, there is a strong Ukrainian wall that protects our country.”


Russian assaults continue in Ukraine’s east

Ukraine vowed on Saturday to prevail against Moscow as it battled Russian assaults near a key eastern city and multiple locations came under shell and missile attack.
European Union countries are expected at a summit next week to grant Ukraine following a recommendation from the bloc’s executive on Friday, putting Kyiv on course to realise an aspiration seen as out of reach before Russia’s invasion, even if actual membership could take years.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Friday and . Back in Britain on Saturday, he stressed the need to avoid “Ukraine fatigue” after nearly four months of war.
“The Russians are grinding forward inch by inch and it is vital for us to show what we know to be true, which is that Ukraine can win and will win,” he told reporters.

“When Ukraine fatigue is setting in, it is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them the strategic resilience that they need.”

On the battlefields on Saturday, Severodonetsk, a prime target in Moscow’s offensive to seize full control of the eastern region of Luhansk, was again under heavy artillery and rocket fire as the Russian forces attacked areas outside the industrial city, the Ukrainian military said.
A Russian-backed representative said a big explosion rocked the Severodonetsk area on Saturday and a large orange-coloured cloud could be seen rising into the air.
Rodion Miroshnik, of the self-styled separatist administration of the Luhansk People’s Republic, posted a video on Telegram of what he said was the cloud, adding that he could not tell if the blast occurred in or near the city.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian attacks on towns just south of Severodonetsk were repulsed by Ukrainian forces, although the situation in satellite villages was “difficult.”

“The Russians have thrown all their reserves in the direction of Severodonetsk and Bakhmut,” he said in an online post. “They are trying to establish full control over the regional centre and to cut the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway. They’re having no success, they are dying en masse.”


Mr Gaidai said the city of Lysychansk was under constant shelling but remained fully in Ukrainian hands, although a ‘quiet’ evacuation was underway, and humanitarian convoys were being brought in daily. He said a key highway out of the city was now impassable due to Russian shelling.
To the northwest, several Russian missiles hit a gasworks in Izium district, and Russian rockets rained on a suburb of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, hitting a municipal building and starting a fire in a block of flats, but causing no casualties, Ukrainian authorities said.

Moscow says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour. Ukraine and its allies say Moscow has launched an unprovoked war of aggression, killing thousands of civilians and flattening cities.

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