Zelensky on front line in show of strength after showdown with top general

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on the front line
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on the front line - UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/SHUTTERSTOCK
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Volodymyr Zelensky visited troops at the southern front line on Sunday in a show of strength amid rumours he had ordered the resignation of his top general.

Mr Zelensky undertook a dangerous mission to the village Robotyne, which Kyiv retook from Russian forces last summer but is again under heavy attack.

Video posted on Facebook showed the president in uniform meeting soldiers in a dark room that looked like an underground cellar.

“I have the great honour to be here today, to reward you, because you have such a difficult and decisive mission on your shoulders to repel the enemy and win this war,” Zelensky told fighters.

“I wish you victory, I want to reward you and I wish you to do everything to achieve this victory sooner.”

Earlier in the day he met military and security chiefs in the region.

President Zelensky rallies his troops
President Zelensky rallies his troops - UKRAiNIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/AFP

Reports suggest he ordered the resignation of the army’s general Valerii Zaluzhnyi in a showdown meeting last Monday. The general, hugely popular with Western military leaders and also with voters in Ukraine, reportedly refused to leave his post.

It came as Moscow-installed officials say Ukrainian shelling killed at least 28 people at a bakery in the Russian-occupied city of Lysychansk.

At least one child was among the dead on Saturday, local leader Leonid Pasechnik wrote in a statement on Telegram. A further 10 people were rescued from under the rubble by emergency services, he said.

Ukrainian officials in Kyiv did not comment.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have increasingly relied on longer-range attacks this winter amid largely unchanged positions on the 1,500-kilometre (930-mile) front line in the nearly two-year-old war.

President Zelensky on his morale-boosting frontline visit
President Zelensky on his morale-boosting frontline visit - UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/AFP

However, Ukrainian forces have come under intense Russian attack over the past 24 hours, with continuous assaults along the front line, Ukraine’s general staff said in a statement on Sunday.

Fighting has been particularly fierce in the eastern city of Avdiivka, where Moscow is attempting to encircle Kyiv’s troops, while Ukrainian forces have also been on the defensive in Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia, officials said.

One civilian was killed and two injured in a Russian artillery strike in the frontline town of Toretsk, less than 30 kilometres from Bakhmut, said Donetsk regional governor Vadym Filashkin.

The military administration for Ukraine’s northern Sumy region said on Sunday that Russian forces had shelled the region in 16 separate attacks the previous day, firing on the border communities of Yunakivka, Bilopillia, Krasnopillia, Velyka Pysarivka, and Esman.

General Serhii Naiev, commander of the Ukrainian Joint Forces, said that Kyiv’s troops had pushed back Russian sabotage and reconnaissance units attempting to cross the border in the Sumy region.

With Ukraine’s soldiers concentrated in the eastern regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv, the reported incursion suggests that Moscow could be probing vulnerabilities on a new front to further stretch Ukrainian resources.

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