Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has traveled to Izyum, one of the largest cities recently retaken from Russia in a lightning counteroffensive in the eastern part of the country.
The Ukrainian military in a statement on social media said Zelenskiy and military officials “took part” in a ceremony raising the Ukrainian flag over the liberated city, which was key for Russia’s ambitions to capture the Donbas region.
Photos showed Zelenskiy greeting Ukrainian soldiers participating in the rapidly advancing counteroffensive.
Zelenskiy said in his nightly address on September 13 that Ukraine was in full control of more than 4,000 square kilometers of territory recaptured from Russian forces and stabilizing another 4,000 square kilometers.
“Our blue-yellow flag is already flying in de-occupied Izyum. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village,” Zelensky said on Telegram.
“We are moving only in one direction — forward and until victory,” he said in a post on social media after his visit.
The Ukrainian military has pushed Russian forces out of hundreds of cities and towns in the northeast of the country, and Zelenskiy said the stabilization of the liberated communities was under way.
Zelenskiy also criticized Russia for missile strikes that hit a hydroelectric facility in Kryviy Rih, which he said was an attempt to flood the city and leave its people without water, electricity, heat, and food.
Russian troops fired eight cruise missiles at Kryviy Rih, hitting the facility, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior aide to Zelenskiy. No civilians were injured, and the damage caused is being repaired, he said.
He said the rockets were aimed at critical facilities with the goal of creating an emergency situation and panic among the population.
“They need our panic,” Tymoshenko said. “That’s why we don’t panic.”
Earlier on September 14, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who held a 90-minute phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 13, said Putin hasn’t changed his thinking on invading Ukraine.
“Sadly, I cannot tell you that the impression has grown that it was a mistake to begin this war. And there was no indication that new attitudes are emerging,” Scholz told a press conference on September 14.
The Kremlin, which has made little mention of the setbacks in recent days, vowed to continue fighting. It also said on September 14 that Putin had discussed getting Ukrainian grain to countries most in need in a telephone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The conversation “mainly focused on implementing the Istanbul agreements on exporting Ukrainian grain” from Black Sea ports, and the export of Russian food and fertilizer, the Kremlin said in a statement.
“Both sides emphasized the importance of meeting the needs, as a priority, of those in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America who need food,” the Kremlin said.
Guterres said he was hopeful a UN-brokered deal would be maintained and expanded to include Russian ammonia.
“To remove the obstacles that still exist in relation to the export of Russian fertilizers is absolutely essential,” Guterres told reporters shortly after speaking to Putin.
“There are…talks in relation to the possibility of Russian ammonia exports through the Black Sea,” said Guterres, adding that there was a “dramatic situation” on the world fertilizer market.
Facilitating Russia’s food and fertilizer shipments is a central aspect of the deal brokered in July that also restarted Ukraine’s Black Sea grain and fertilizer shipments. Russia has recently criticized the deal, complaining that its exports were still hindered.
A pipeline transporting ammonia from Russia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port was shut down when Russia invaded Ukraine. The United Nations is now trying to broker a resumption of those ammonia exports.
In Strasbourg, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she would travel to Kyiv later on September 14. It will be von der Leyen’s third visit to Kyiv since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.