Ukraine’s Zelenskyy visits front-line troops under pressure from Russia’s onslaught in eastern areas

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Commander in Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi on Wednesday visited troops in the eastern Donetsk region who have weathered fierce Russian ground and air assaults in recent months.

The Kremlin’s army has escalated its efforts to dislodge exhausted and outgunned Ukrainian forces holding eastern and northeastern areas. It aims to capture more land during spring and summer as muddy fields have dried out, allowing heavy military equipment to roll into key positions across the countryside.

Russia illegally annexed parts of Donetsk and three other regions in 2022 shortly after it invaded Ukraine, and the Kremlin regards taking control of all of Donetsk as a priority. Moscow is looking to exploit its advantages in troops and weaponry before Ukraine can get promised additional Western supplies to the front.

Civilians have also felt the force of Russia’s onslaught. Ahead of Zelenskyy’s visit, Russian forces dropped a powerful glide bomb on the Donetsk city of Selydove, causing extensive damage to 37 homes, six multi-story buildings and administrative infrastructure, regional authorities said Wednesday. They reported no injuries.

Over the previous 24 hours, the Russian military shelled 20 Donetsk region settlements, killing one person and injuring at least nine, regional head Vadym Filashkin said.

About 250 people have been evacuated from their homes in the Donetsk region since Tuesday, officials said.

Zelenskyy also discussed with local officials the public drinking water supply, social issues, evacuation plans and the rebuilding of local homes, he said.

Zelenskyy signaled he wants a better response from Kyiv officials overseeing those matters. He didn’t elaborate on the perceived problems and which officials he would speak to.

Zelenskyy has frequently visited front-line areas during the war.

His said his trip to the Donetsk region was to introduce the new commander of the Joint Forces Command, Andrii Hnatov.

Hnatov replaced Yurii Sodol, who had held the position since February 2023.

Zelenskyy didn’t give a reason for the change, but it came after the widely admired chief of staff of the Azov brigade, Bohdan Krotevych, released a statement rebuking an unnamed general for having “killed more Ukrainian soldiers than any Russian general,” in what was seen as a reference to incompetent management of troops.

Several Ukrainian media outlets, quoting unidentified sources in the armed forces, said he was referring to Sodol.


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