(Okhtyrka) The Ukrainian president visited the Sumy region in northern Ukraine on Tuesday, continuing the tour he has been doing in recent days in the regions of the country which have suffered the brunt of the Russian invasion, while the ground seems increasingly ripe for a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Volodymyr Zelensky met with officials and residents of two towns in this border region of Russia. It was partially occupied by Russian forces after the war started more than a year ago. The Russians withdrew from the area at the beginning of April.
The Associated Press had exclusive access to Mr. Zelensky’s visit to towns in the Sumy region ― Okhtyrka, which saw heavy fighting last year but was never occupied; and Trostianets, which was held by the Russians for a month after the invasion, but was liberated by Ukrainian forces on March 26, 2022.
Mr Zelensky’s trip follows visits he has made over the past seven days to the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, parts of which were recaptured from Kremlin forces last year, in the intensely contested area near Bakhmout, in the eastern region of Donetsk, and in Zaporizhya, in the south of the country.
Also on Tuesday, at least three civilians were killed and 43 others injured in the latest Russian attacks involving drones, hovering bombs and heavy artillery, Ukraine’s presidential office said.
In the eastern region of Donetsk, Russian shelling hit 12 towns and villages, killing two and injuring 34. Russian fire also targeted the southern city of Kherson, where five people were injured. In Bilopillia, Sumy region, a Russian strike damaged a school and an apartment building.
Addressing a crowd of people in a square in Okhtyrka, Mr. Zelensky promised that the battle-shattered city would be rebuilt.
“We will leave no wounds on the body of our state,” he said.
In Trostianets, Mr. Zelensky paid his respects to soldiers at the local train station, where Ukrainian authorities say the Russians tortured prisoners. He also met the Ukrainian Minister for Reconstruction, Oleksandr Kubrakov.
Many buildings in the city have been damaged or destroyed by the war, with crumbling walls and burst roofs.
Expectations of a Ukrainian push against Russian positions are rising as the weather improves and Western-supplied weapons arrive in Kyiv.
Germany said late Monday that it had delivered the 18 Leopard II tanks it had promised to Ukraine. The United Kingdom, Poland, Canada and Norway also delivered the promised tanks.
Russia continued its long-range bombardment of Ukrainian areas, but its nighttime attacks with Iranian-made Shahed explosive drones caused little damage.
The Ukrainian army shot down 14 of the 15 Shahed drones fired by Russia late Monday, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The Kyiv Regional Military Administration said debris from a downed drone hit an administrative building in the capital’s western Sviatoshynskyi district, sparking a fire. No casualties were reported.
Dnipropetrovsk region governor Serhii Lysak said the Ukrainian military shot down two drones overnight, but another hit a private industrial facility in the city of Dnipro and started a fire that burned for a few hours.