Zelensky visits Kharkiv region after Russian attacks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) visits Kharkiv region following the devastating Russian attacks. -/Ukrainian presidency/dpa
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) visits Kharkiv region following the devastating Russian attacks. -/Ukrainian presidency/dpa
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Following the devastating Russian attacks on the north-eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited the area to review the situation.

"All the conditions for reducing the electricity deficit are being created," Zelensky said in a video message on Tuesday. There should be fewer power cuts, he said, adding that work is being done to repair the damage to the grids.

The president accused Russia of trying to drive people out of the city of over 1 million and the region.

"Everything that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin touches turns into ruins," Zelensky said. However, Kiev will do everything it can to better protect the city from Russian attacks, he added. "We have a solution to strengthen the air defence here."

Zelensky also appealed to international allies to do more to strengthen Ukraine's air defence - and not just in Kharkiv.

The head of state also inspected the progress made in the construction of defence lines along the Russian border. Fears of a new Russian advance towards Ukraine's second largest city after Kiev have recently been mounting.

Ukraine has been defending itself against a full-scale Russian invasion for over two years.

The major city of Kharkiv, which is only around 30 kilometres from the Russian border, was hit particularly hard by Russian attacks in March, especially on its energy infrastructure. At times, Kharkiv was completely without electricity and there were regular power cuts.

Authorities across Ukraine's regions, from Lviv in the west to Donetsk in the east, reported deaths from Russian drone and missile attacks over the past day. Energy infrastructure was also once again hit.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for urgent international efforts to supply more air defence systems in view of the threat posed by Russia to Kharkiv.

Putin wants to "bomb Kharkiv to the ground," warned Baerbock. "He wants to destroy, he wants to deliberately destroy."

"If Russia launches a major offensive there, it would cause immeasurable suffering," she said.

Baerbock, speaking at meeting with her Moldovan counterpart, lamented that Germany's stocks of Patriot air defence systems are "pretty much exhausted."

She said that a fund was being worked on with Ukraine and European partners to purchase air defence systems from other countries around the world and deliver them quickly.

She hoped that further information could be provided at the meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Italy next week.

Reports of civilian deaths in the past 24 hours highlighted the need for Ukraine to better protect its skies.

Authorities in the central region of Poltava, the northern region of Sumy and the eastern region of Donetsk all announced at least one death in their territory due Russian strikes.

Zaporizhzhya Governor Ivan Fedorov said that the number of civilians killed in his region in strikes on Monday had risen from three to four, with another eight people injured.

In Brussels, the European Commission said Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands are to soon supply Ukraine with 157 power generators in various sizes.

Another drone attack was reported on Tuesday in the area of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya.

According to the Russian management of the plant, a training centre next to the power station was hit.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said there was no "direct threat to nuclear safety" but called the situation "extremely serious."

On Sunday, the plant was attacked by drones in three places. According to an IAEA report, no serious damage was caused. Nevertheless, the Vienna-based agency categorized the attack as a "serious incident" that had endangered the radiation shielding of a reactor.

The IAEA did not say from which side the nuclear power plant was attacked, but it reported that "Russian troops engaged what appeared to be an approaching drone" on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian public prosecutor's office said it aware of 54 cases in which Russian soldiers are alleged to have shot Ukrainian prisoners of war, stretching back to the early days of the war in March 2022.

A total of 27 criminal proceedings have been initiated, the head of the department responsible for war crimes at the public prosecutor's office, Yurii Bielousov, wrote on Telegram on Tuesday.

The United Nations has received reports of 12 incidents in which at least 32 Ukrainian prisoners of war were shot dead between the beginning of December last year and the end of February alone. The UN observers were able to verify three cases.

In 2022 and early 2023, however, the shooting of 25 Russian prisoners of war by Ukrainian soldiers was also documented.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) visits Kharkiv region following the devastating Russian attacks. -/Ukrainian presidency/dpa
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) visits Kharkiv region following the devastating Russian attacks. -/Ukrainian presidency/dpa