President Volodymyr Zelensky got a first-hand look at the destruction in the frontline southern port city of Mykolaiv, a rare trip for the Ukrainian leader outside the capital of Kyiv, according to reports.
Zelensky’s office posted a video on Telegram of the visit to the city of roughly 485,000 people near the Black Sea, which has been repeatedly pummeled by Russian shelling.
The president toured a badly damaged residential building, met with the head of the Mykolaiv regional administration, Vitaliy Kim, and gave out state awards to some local leaders, the BBC reported.
“Our brave men. Each one of them is working flat out,” said Zelensky, clad in his usual olive green military shirt. “We will definitely hold out! We will definitely win!”
His office said the officials discussed the state of the economy, the restoration of water supplies and the agricultural situation.
“Special attention was paid to threats from land and sea. We do not stop working for victory,” the statement said.
It was not clear exactly when Zelensky’s visit took place, but the news came a day after a Russian strike killed two people and wounded another 20 in the city.
The trip followed meetings in Kyiv with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday and an announcement that Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union got backing from its president.
When he returned to Britain, Johnson warned of a risk of “Ukraine fatigue” setting in around the world as the war continues — it is now in its 114th day.
“The Russians are grinding forward inch by inch and it’s vital for us to show what we know to be true which is that Ukraine can win and will win,” Johnson told reporters. “When Ukraine fatigue is setting in, it’s very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them the strategic resilience that they need.”
It would be a “catastrophe” if Russian President Vladimir Putin was able to secure cities in the south of Ukraine and the eastern Donbas region, he continued.
The UK’s Ministry of Defense tweeted that Russia has renewed its efforts to advance south of the eastern city of Izyum in the last two days, with a goal of surrounding the besieged city of Severodonetsk from the north.
It also accused Russia of using humanitarian corridors intended to allow civilians to evacuate “as a mechanism to manipulate the battlespace and impose the forced transfer of populations.”
Russia has repeatedly been accused of forcing Ukrainian civilians to evacuate to territory it controls rather than heading west.
In other developments:
— Denmark’s military said a Russian warship entered its territorial waters in the Baltic Sea for the second time early Friday. The Russian corvette moved out of the waters after it was contacted on radio by the NATO member’s navy, The Sun reported. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said a formal protest would be lodged with the Russian ambassador. “We will not accept this type of Russian provocations,” said Kofod.
The breach was, “A deeply irresponsible, gross and completely unacceptable Russian provocation,” Kofod later tweeted. “Bullying methods do not work against Denmark.” the tweet included the hashtag #WeAreNATO
— The Biden administration’s plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine was paused because of fears the sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, Reuters reported, citing two unnamed sources.
The objection to the sale was raised during a review by the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration, which works to keep high value technology safe. The planned sale, circulating since March, was previously approved by the White House.
— Ukrainian shelling of the eastern Donetsk region damaged part of the Donetsk National University, along with government buildings including a school and civilian housing and shops, the separatist pro-Russia mayor said on Telegram.
Shelling also reportedly trapped 77 miners in a coal mine in the breakaway region. Power to the mine was cut off and the 77 remain underground, Reuters reported, citing Russia’s state RIA news agency.
— Britain’s Johnson said that Ukraine should be allowed to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest after winning this year’s event, after the show’s organizers said the UK will host instead.
Tradition has it the winning country hosts the following year.
“The Ukrainians won the Eurovision Song Contest… they deserve to have it and I believe that they can have it and I believe that they should have it,” Johnson said. “I believe that Kyiv or any other safe Ukrainian city would be a fantastic place to have it and I very much hope that the European Broadcast Union will recognise that.”