Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited Ukrainian forces fighting on the front line that runs through the eastern Donetsk region and the south of the country, decorating troops on a day in which he said his forces had “advanced in all directions”.
In an upbeat message to his nation after visiting the front lines, Zelenskyy said: “This is a happy day. I wished the guys more days like this.”
“It was a busy day, a lot of emotions… I was honoured to award our warriors, to thank them personally, to shake their hands,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, which was released in the early hours of Tuesday.
The Ukrainian president also said he had spoken about weapons supplies with United States President Joe Biden.
“Today, I was in the area where these weapons will give more power, more protection to Ukrainians’ lives. And bring our victory closer, this is the main thing. All our land will be free – all of it,” he said.
The president’s office posted four videos of Zelenskyy’s journey on Monday, which he said covered “hundreds of kilometres” and appeared to present encounters with his troops in at least three locations on the front lines.
The Ukrainian leader’s interactions with his forces and positive comments on Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive contrasted starkly with the turmoil in Russia following the short-lived weekend mutiny by the Russian Wagner Group’s mercenary forces.
One location visited by Zelenskyy was in the eastern Donetsk region, which has been a focal point of fighting in the 16-month-old war. Another was located in what was described as the Berdyansk sector in the south of the country – in areas where Ukrainian forces have captured villages. A third location was also on the southern front, further to the west.
The first video showed Zelenskyy handing out military awards at an undisclosed indoor location and poring over maps with Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces.
“I have the honour to be here today, talk to the commander and first of all thank you, thank you for protecting our country, sovereignty, our families, children, Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in the video.
A second video showed Zelenskyy at a fuel station where he had coffee with soldiers. Dressed in his trademark military khaki T-shirt, he stood alongside troops in a queue at a counter and posed for photos with the soldiers and women working there.
In the third video, Zelenskyy handed out decorations, posed with soldiers and again examined maps with officers. Loud booms resounded at least twice during the video.
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had regained control over Rivnopil, a village west of a cluster of settlements recaptured in recent offensive operations in the Donetsk region. The village appeared to be the ninth retaken by Ukraine forces this month.
In the past week, 17 additional square kilometres (10.5 sq miles) of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia region have been recaptured, Maliar also said on Telegram, while a total of 130sq km (almost 81 sq miles) of Russian-occupied territory had been liberated since the start of the counteroffensive in early June.
Ukraine also reported minor successes in the east. According to Maliar, the army advanced 1-2km (0.6-1.2 miles) in several directions during the previous week, despite fierce resistance from the Russians.
Ukrainian forces also repelled Russian counterattacks at several points on the front, including near Bakhmut, Lyman and Avdiivka where the fighting is said to be particularly fierce right now.
In the past seven days, there have been more than 250 battles in these areas, Maliar said.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had intensified their assaults around Bakhmut city and had made advances around the northern and southern parts of the city.
There was also little evidence that Russia had the ground force reserves required to “reinforce against” the many threats now posed by Ukraine “in widely separated sectors, from Bakhmut to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, over 200km [124 miles] away”, the ministry said in an intelligence update.
There has been little evidence that Russia maintains any significant ground forces operational level reserves which could be used to reinforce against the multiple threats it is now facing in widely separated sectors,
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) June 26, 2023