Zelensky Makes Morale-Boosting Trip to Bakhmut

KYIV, Ukraine — The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, made a rare and defiant trip near the front lines on Wednesday, personally thanking soldiers fighting in the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, where became a Ukrainian resistance symbol.

The trip to the Bakhmut region came on a day when air and sea drones hit the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula and a Russian missile hit a nine-story apartment complex in Zaporizhzhia, south, leaving at least one person dead or injured. more than 30 others.

At least seven others were killed, including an ambulance driver, and nine others were injured when a drone strike hit a college in Rzhyshchiv, about 50 miles east south of the capital Kyiv, military officials said on Wednesday. The top floors of two dormitory buildings and another were destroyed, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service.

Mr. Zelensky’s visit comes as he and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin forge alliances and secure support for the fight ahead as both sides are expected to launch attacks. . China will continue to act as a counterweight to Western sanctions on Russia, and Ukraine’s allies promise to help more and faster, including $15.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Zelensky condemned Russia’s attack in Zaporizhzhia, saying Putin’s forces were once again targeting civilians, a tactic that has led to accusations of war crimes against Moscow.

“Right now, the neighborhoods where ordinary people and children live are under fire,” said Zelensky . wrote on Twitter, showing a video of a massive explosion ripping through a high-rise apartment building. “This must not become ‘just another day’ in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world.”

Later, in his nightly speech, the Ukrainian leader promised retaliation, saying: “All Russian attacks will receive a military, political and legal response.” He also said he visited Kharkiv, north of Bakhmut, on Wednesday to discuss reconstruction efforts, restore electricity and remove landmines.

“Kharkiv gives strength to our entire east,” he said.

In Crimea, the Russian-appointed governor, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said after that attack that three drones were destroyed and that Russian ships were not damaged. This is the second consecutive day that drones are reported to have targeted the peninsula. It is not clear who is behind the drone. Ukraine rarely claims responsibility for attacks in territory claimed by Russia.

Mr. Zelensky, the last one visit Bakhmut publicly in December, said he and his generals were determined to hold the city in Ukraine’s Donbas region despite Russia’s siege efforts. He argued that the months-long war was draining Moscow’s forces and resources.

During this trip, he shook hands with the soldiers and thanked them for their bravery.

“Thank you for defending the state, sovereignty, eastern Ukraine,” Zelensky said, according to a statement from his office that included images showing him taking selfies with the military. It does not give his exact location, but an image posted on Twitter by OKKO, a Ukrainian gas station chain, shows Mr. Zelensky with employees at a branch in Kostyantynivka, about 15 miles from Bakhmut.

In his nightly speech, he said it was “heartbreaking” to see “suffering and ruin” in the eastern Donbas region.

“Wherever Russia’s evil goes, it is clear that the terrorist state cannot be stopped by anything other than one thing – our victory,” he said. “And we will guarantee that – the victory of Ukraine.”

The battle for Bakhmut, which began in the summer, has become one of Russia’s longest-running offensives since an all-out invasion more than a year ago. Fighting has intensified in recent months, with Moscow throwing thousands of its armed forces and the army. Wagner Private Military Company into one crushing and often block-by-block battles caused heavy casualties on both sides.

The battle also consumed a large amount Kiev’s ammunition supplyled some Western and Ukrainian officials to warn that trying to hold onto Bakhmut, whose strategic significance is being debated, could weaken Kyiv before the anticipated spring offensive.

Zelensky’s visit took place a few days later Mr. Putin visits Mariupol city in southern Ukraine, now occupied by Russian forces after one of Moscow’s most brutal campaigns of the war.

The trip to Mariupol, about 50 miles southeast of the Ukrainian town of Vuhledar, where Russian forces heavy loss just a few weeks ago and where fighting continues – arguably the closest Mr Putin has come to the front line since the Russian invasion.

More than a year of fighting has left much of Ukraine in ruins, and the IMF and Ukraine have reached a preliminary agreement on loans to help the country reduce its staggering budget deficit and recover from widespread damage to infrastructure.

The United States and European nations have been pushing for the package, and the fund’s board is expected to review the four-year program in the coming weeks, according to a statement released Tuesday.


Marc Santora report from Kiev, Ukraine; Valerie Hopkins from Berlin; And Victoria Kim from Seoul.


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