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Zelensky pays tribute to soldiers who fought painful battles in Ukraine’s Donbass



Zelensky pays tribute to soldiers fighting 'traumatic' battles in Ukraine's Donbass

“This is one of the most difficult battles. Painful and difficult,” Zelensky said.

Kyiv, Ukraine:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday paid tribute to his soldiers fighting in the “traumatic and difficult” battle for the country’s border eastern Donbas region.

He was speaking after Ukraine’s general staff reported that its forces had repelled “more than 130 enemy attacks” the previous day, including in Kupiansk, Liman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

“The enemy continues its efforts to encircle the city of Bakhmut,” it said on Sunday of the eastern city that Moscow has been trying to capture for months.

Ukraine has vowed to defend “Fortress Bakhmut”, which Russian troops are determined to take. Analysts say the city, which has been nearly destroyed in the fighting, has little real strategic importance.

But, as it has become the longest and bloodiest battle of the conflict, its fate has acquired a symbolic significance far surpassing its military significance.

“I want to pay special tribute to the bravery, strength and resilience of the soldiers fighting in Donbass,” Zelensky said in his daily address.

“It is one of the toughest battles. Painful and difficult.”

Donbass is made up of Donetsk and Lugansk, which Russia claims to be in possession of, though not in full control.

Zelensky said, Ukraine’s troops “repelled attacks, destroyed occupiers, undermined enemy positions and logistics, and protected our borders and cities”.

But on Saturday the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) warned that Ukrainian supply routes to Bakhmut were narrowing.

“The Russians may have intended to encircle Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian command has indicated that it would likely retreat rather than risk encirclement.”

– Russian rivalry –

Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region posted a video purported to show Wagner fighters taking control of the Stupki railway station in the suburbs north of Bakhmut.

Wagner, a private army headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, has taken center stage in the battle for the city, which has ignited a rivalry with Russia’s conventional forces.

Already on Friday, Prigozhin said that his fighters “practically surrounded” Bakhmut and only one road remained under Ukrainian control.

Prigozhin, who has been publicizing his men’s advance toward the eastern city for weeks, posted on social media on Saturday that he said coffins containing the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers had been sent to territory controlled by Kiev.

Prigozhin regularly posts videos of himself with mercenaries, on the ground or even in a fighter jet, in contrast to Russian generals criticized for avoiding the front line.

In a rare exception, Russia on Saturday released a video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspecting troops in border areas in Ukraine.

The ministry said Shoigu inspected an advance command post in the south Donetsk direction, without specifying where or when.

He was seen traveling in a helicopter and talking to a soldier in front of damaged buildings.

The ISW think tank said that Shoigu had gone there “to assess the extent of Russian losses around Vagledar and to assess the possibility of a further offensive in this direction”.

– Zaporizhia ‘hostage’ –

While the epicenter of fighting lay in the east, Ukraine’s state emergency service said the death toll from a strike this week on an apartment block in southern Zaporizhzhya had risen to 13. The agency said a small child was also among the dead.

The Ukrainian president also said that Russian shelling had killed five people on Saturday.

Zaporizhia is one of four regions – along with Donetsk, Lugansk and Kherson – that Russia claims it has occupied but never fully controls.

But Moscow’s military has been occupying the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant since March 4, 2022.

The plant has repeatedly made headlines and revived fears of a nuclear catastrophe similar to the deadly Chernobyl disaster that shook Ukraine in 1986.

The exiled mayor of Energodar, which houses the station, told AFP that Russia uses the plant as a “nuclear shield” for its troops and equipment.

After Kiev and Moscow blamed each other for the shelling around the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stationed observers there.

Zelensky said on Saturday that Russia had taken the nuclear power plant “hostage” a year ago and turned the area “(of the power plant) into a de facto military training ground”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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