He was in military positions to show that the battered city has not fallen into Russian hands.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky visited military positions near the battlefront city of Bakhmut on Wednesday in the country’s east, hours after Vladimir Putin fired Chinese leader Xi Jinping after a three-day visit to Russia.
The visit took place, in a new day of Russian attacks against civilians and infrastructure. In Zaporiya, in southern Ukraine, at least one person was killed and 25 wounded in an attack on a residential building, according to the city’s mayor.
“Donetsk region. Front positions of the Ukrainian army in the Bakhmut area. It is an honor to be here today to reward our heroes. I shake their hands and thank them for protecting our country’s sovereignty,” Zelensky said in a message on social networks.
Video released by Zelensky’s office shows the president meeting with the military in a warehouse and handing out decorations.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting for months over kyiv-held Bakhmut in the fiercest battle since the war began in late February last year.
Kiev claims that the fight for this industrial city, which before the war had a population of about 80,000 people, is key to containing Russian forces along the entire eastern front.
A video released by Zelensky’s office shows the president meeting with the military in a warehouse and handing out decorations. Photo: AP
In a separate message, Zelensky detailed that he visited wounded Ukrainian soldiers, and in a video he was seen touring a hospital and greeting soldiers.
Zelensky had already visited Bakhmut late last year, just before a historic trip to the United States, his first abroad since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
However, since then, Russian forces have made progress in view of the capture of Bakhmut.
A Russian-appointed adviser to the head of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region said on Wednesday that Russian forces were about to cut Ukraine’s road connections with the city.
“The city is practically blocked,” Yan Gagin said in statements carried by Russian news agencies.
Zelensky also showed footage of the Zaporiya attack showing a shell crashing into a residential building and a large column of black smoke rising above the building.
Images of the attack in Zaporizhia. Photo: AP
“Unfortunately, one wounded person, who was in serious condition, died,” the city’s mayor Anatoliy Kurtiev said on Telegram, adding that another 25 people had been hospitalized.
Zelensky called the attack “beastly savagery” and said Russia was seeking to “destroy our cities, our state, our people.”
Xi’s visit to Moscow
Zelensky talks to soldiers in positions close to Bakhmut. Photo: AP
Zelensky’s visit came hours after Xi Jinping left Russia after a summit with his counterpart Vladimir Putin to show unity with Western powers.
Both nations, keen to counter US international influence, expressed concerns over NATO expansion and agreed to deepen an alliance that has deepened since Russia’s offensive on Ukraine.
The Chinese leader’s visit was seen as an endorsement of Putin, who is facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over allegations of the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.
The Russian leader stated that he was open to negotiating with Ukraine and praised the 12-point peace proposal presented by China, which calls for dialogue and respect for the territorial sovereignty of all countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meeting in the Kremlin. Photo: AP
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky explained that he had invited China to talk, but that he still awaits “an answer.”
In Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referred to the UK’s plan to deliver depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, saying it would mean a “serious” escalation of the conflict.
On Monday, Britain’s Deputy Defense Minister Annabel Goldi said her country plans to supply Ukraine with munitions that are “very effective in destroying modern tanks and armored vehicles.”
Daria Andriyevska, AFP