KYIV (Parliament Politics Magazine) – President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky paid a visit to forces in Kharkiv, which is located on the country’s damaged eastern front line.
Since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, it was his first official excursion outside of Kyiv.
He was photographed exploring ruins in Kharkiv city while wearing a bullet-proof vest.
“I want to thank each of you for your service,” Mr Zelensky addressed the soldiers. He later fired the city’s security chief for failing to protect the city.
After a fortnight of relative calm, Russia has started shelling Kharkiv, second-largest city of Ukraine.
In the early months of the war, the city – Ukraine’s second-largest – was heavily bombarded, with photographs showing tower blocks reduced to rubble.
During April and May, Russian troops were progressively driven back from towns surrounding Kharkiv, prompting some residents to return and the metro to start running for the first time since the invasion.
The city, however, remains inside Russian artillery range. Following Mr Zelensky’s visit, the city heard several thunderous explosions.
On Telegram, President Zelensky’s office shared a video with the caption: “2,229 buildings have been destroyed in Kharkiv and the region. We will restore, rebuild and bring back life. In Kharkiv and all other towns and villages where evil came.”
Mr Zelensky was shown a film of Ukrainian soldiers taking him on a tour of the war’s devastation, which included broken down lorries on the side of the road.
Mr Zelensky later wrote, “In this war, the occupiers are trying to squeeze out at least some result.”
However, they should have realised a long time ago that they would defend their land to the death. They had no chance. They would fight and definitely win, he added.
The president claimed he sacked Roman Dudin, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service for the Kharkiv region, because he did not work on the city’s defence from the beginning of the full-scale battle, but only focused on himself.
On what he based his decisions. It will be figured out by law enforcement officers, he went on to say.
The president met with the mayor of Kharkiv and the regional governor to discuss restoration plans, reportedly asking them to “find cool projects” to assist in the rehabilitation of the devastated city.
Mr Zelensky stated, “This is a chance for such districts to have a new face.”
Andriy Yermak, his chief of staff, stated Russia currently occupied 31% of the Kharkiv region’s area, while Ukraine reclaimed 5% that had previously been occupied.
Russia is currently focusing its effort on eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area, which it has declared a priority battle objective.
The cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk are being encircled by the Russian military. Russia’s defence ministry announced on Saturday that it had taken the nearby town of Lyman in Donetsk, which is part of the larger Donbas area.
The situation was extremely severe, particularly in the Kharkiv and Donbas regions, Mr Zelensky said in his everyday address to the country on Saturday.
An estimated 15,000 residents remain in Severodonetsk, where continuous bombardment has made it difficult to get in or out, according to a local official. The availability of water is becoming increasingly problematic.
The military and civil administration of the city’s chief, Oleksandr Stryuk, said evacuation is extremely dangerous, adding that there were limited cases when they managed to get people out.