Zelenskyy praises Ukrainian soldiers from an island in the Black Sea to mark 500 days of war: NPR

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center left, stands next to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, at St. George in Istanbul, Türkiye, on Saturday.

Francisco Seco/AP

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Francisco Seco/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center left, stands next to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, at St. George in Istanbul, Türkiye, on Saturday.

Francisco Seco/AP

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the 500th day of the war on Saturday by praising the country’s soldiers in a video from a Black Sea island that has become iconic on Ukraine’s resilience to Russian aggression.

Speaking from Snake Island, Mr Zelenskyy paid tribute to the Ukrainian soldiers who fought for the island and all the other defenders of the country, saying that regaining control of the island “is a great testament to the see Ukraine will regain its territory piece by piece.”

“I want to thank – from here, from this place of victory – each of our soldiers for these 500 days,” Zelenskyy said. “Thank you to everyone who fought for Ukraine!”

It’s not clear when the video was shot. Zelenskyy returned from Türkiye on Saturday.

He announced that the five commanders defending the Azovstal steel plant, a grueling months-long siege at the start of the war, would return on the plane with him.

The vast steel mill was the last bastion of resistance as Russian forces took control of the port city of Mariupol. Its defenders have become famous among Ukrainians for withstood poor conditions in the tunnels and corridors of the factory.

More than 2,000 Azovstal defenders left the steel mill in mid-May 2022 and were detained by Russia. The five leaders, some of them members of the Azov National Guard regiment that Russia denounces as neo-Nazis, were freed in a prisoner exchange in September and sent to Turkey.

According to the exchange, the leaders will stay in Türkiye until the war ends under the protection of the Turkish president. There was no immediate official explanation from Ankara or Kyiv as to why they were allowed to return to Ukraine.

“The return of the leaders of the Azovites from Turkey to Ukraine is nothing more than a direct violation of the terms of the existing agreements. Moreover, in this case, both the Ukrainian side and the Turkish side. Ky violated the terms,” ​​he said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Russian forces took control of Snake Island on 24 February 2022, the day Moscow launched the invasion, in the apparent hope of using the island as a springboard for an attack on Odesa, the major port of Ukraine and is the headquarters of the country’s navy.

The island holds legendary significance for the Ukrainian resistance, as Ukrainian troops there are said to have received a request from a Russian warship to surrender or be bombed. The answer is said to have come back, “Go (explore) yourself.

The Ukrainian defenders of the island were captured but later released as part of a prisoner exchange. After the island was taken, Ukrainian troops heavily bombarded the small Russian garrison there, forcing the Russians to retreat on June 30, 2022. Russia’s retreat reduced the threat a Russian seaborne attack on Odesa and helped pave the way for an agreement to restore Ukrainian grain exports

“Let the freedom that all our heroes of different eras desire for Ukraine and that must be won now as a tribute to all those who gave their lives. them for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. “We will definitely win!”

Ukrainian forces continue to counterattack

A Ukrainian policeman from the special police unit fires a D-30 cannon towards Russian positions on the front line, near Kreminna, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on Friday.


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A Ukrainian policeman from the special police unit fires a D-30 cannon towards Russian positions on the front line, near Kreminna, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on Friday.


Fierce battles continued Saturday in the east and south of the country as Ukrainian forces stepped up attacks against Russia’s multi-layered defenses in the early stages of the counter-offensive.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said a Russian missile attack on the town of Lyman killed eight civilians and wounded 13 others early Saturday morning. Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the eastern region of Donetsk, posted images showing several dead, including a body lying under a bicycle and body fragments on the sidewalk next to a damaged vehicle, said that “Russian terrorists are continuing to attack civilians in Donetsk.”

Lyman was a few miles from the front line, where Russian troops had recently intensified fighting in the forests of Kreminna.

The British Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update that the eastern town of Bakhmut captured by Russian forces in May has seen some of the fiercest fighting along the front in the past week.

It said that Ukrainian forces had made steady advances both north and south of Bakhmut, noting that “Russian defenders are most likely struggling with bad morale, a combination of different units and limited ability to find and attack Ukrainian artillery.”

In the midst of the fighting, Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of planning sabotage The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, has raised fears of a radioactive catastrophe. Ukrainian military intelligence on Saturday claimed that the Russian military had planted more mines around the plant, a claim that cannot be independently verified.

The head of the United Nations nuclear agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, speak The Associated Press reported Friday that International Atomic Energy Agency experts have recently reached more areas, including cooling ponds and fuel storage areas, and have found no deposits. there. Grossi said he is still pushing for access to the roofs of the reactors where Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of installing explosives.

On Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited firing ranges where volunteer soldiers are being trained, a trip that comes two weeks after a failed mutiny led by mercenary commander Yevgeny Prigozhin launched, with whom Wagner’s troops marched to Moscow in an attempt to overthrow Shoigu.

Prigozhin has agreed to end the mutiny, which has been the biggest threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his more than two decades in power, in exchange for an amnesty for him and his army and permission to transfer the country. to Belarus. On Saturday, Russian messaging app channels ran the comment of one of Wagner’s commanders, Anton Yelizarov, who said that the mercenaries were on leave but would eventually deploy to Belarus.

Battles along the front lines in Ukraine are intensifying as NATO leaders prepare to meet in Vilnius for a two-day summit next week to further help modernize forces. armed forces of Ukraine, creating a new high-level forum for consultations and reaffirming that it will one day join their coalition.

On the eve of the NATO summit, the US announced it would deliver cluster bombs to Ukraine, a move President Biden described as a “difficult decision”. Two-thirds of NATO members have banned these weapons, which have caused many civilian casualties, but the United States sees their supply as a way to help bolster Ukraine’s offensive and overcome other threats. Russian front line.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov praised the US move, saying that the delivery of cluster bombs would help the country liberate its territories and save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.

Reznikov stated that Ukraine will only use these weapons to liberate its territory and will not fire them on appropriate Russian territory. He also noted that the Ukrainian military will not use cluster bombs in urban areas to avoid hurting civilians.


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