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Zelenskyy postpones all upcoming foreign visits as Ukraine faces a new Russian offensive

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Kyiv, May 15 (AP) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy postponed all his upcoming foreign trips as Ukraine’s army battled to contain a front-line push by the Kremlin’s forces, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday visited a drone manufacturing facility in Kyiv on the second day of a visit meant to reassure Ukrainians of continuing American support.

Zelenskyy cancelled all foreign visits “that were planned for the coming days,” his office said Wednesday on Telegram. The head of state instructed his team to reschedule the visits.

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“We are grateful to our partners for understanding,” the announcement said.

Zelenskyy had been expected to visit Spain, and perhaps Portugal, later this week. No reason was given for his decision, but Ukraine is having a hard time fending off the latest Russian assault.

Blinken also toured a grain transshipment facility and a bionics factory, praising Ukrainian innovation and ingenuity in the face of wartime difficulties.

“Ukraine has had to adapt and adjust to this and it’s done so remarkably,” Blinken said of grain exports now being taken by rail after traditional shipping routes were interrupted by Russia’s full-scale invasion, which began on February 24, 2022.

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Russian troops are pressing a fresh offensive in northeast Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. It began last week, marking the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began and forcing almost 8,000 local people to flee their homes.

Together with Moscow’s weekslong effort to build on its recent gains in the eastern Donetsk region, the more than two-year war has entered a critical stage for Ukraine’s depleted army.

Against that grim backdrop, with thousands of Ukrainian troops locked in fierce battles in towns and villages, Blinken on Tuesday pledged unceasing US support for the country, during and beyond the war. He also tried to lift spirits in Kyiv, performing on guitar with a band at a city bar and eating pizza at a veteran-run restaurant.

Russia is opening new fronts in order to stretch Ukraine’s army, which is short of ammunition and manpower, along the about 1,000-kilometre front line, hoping defences will crumble. Russian artillery and sabotage raids have also been menacing Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv and Sumy regions,

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Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Tuesday that the army has sent reinforcements to the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

“It is too early to draw conclusions, but the situation is under control,” he said.

The pace of Russia’s advance in the Kharkiv border region, where it launched an offensive late last week and has made significant progress, has slowed, the Institute for the Study of War said late Tuesday.

The Washington-based think tank said Moscow’s main aim there is to create a “buffer zone” that will prevent Ukrainian cross-border strikes on Russia’s Belgorod region.

Blinken on Wednesday visited a drone manufacturer on the outskirts of Kyiv and toured a grain transshipment facility where Ukrainian grain is loaded into containers for export by rail.

Blinken praised the ingenuity of the process, which local companies adopted after traditional shipping routes were interrupted by Russia’s full-scale invasion, which began on February 24, 2022.

“Ukraine has had to adapt and adjust to this and it’s done so remarkably,” Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Russian air defences shot down several Ukrainian missiles over the Black Sea and near the Belbek air base, Sevastopol Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev said. Sevastopol is where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered.

The fragments of downed missiles fell into residential areas but caused no casualties, Razvozhayev said.

Russian air defences also shot down nine Ukrainian drones, two Vilha rockets, two anti-radar HARM missiles and two Hammer guided bombs over the Belgorod region early Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said.

Two people were injured in the village of Dubovoye when a Ukranian rocket set their house ablaze, according to Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov.

The military said five other Ukrainian drones were downed over the Kursk region and three drones were shot down over the Bryansk region.

The Defence Ministry also said that another Ukrainian drone was downed over the Tatarstan region. Tatarstan is located more than 1,000 kilometres east of the border with Ukraine.

Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, said two drones attacked a fuel depot. He said there were no casualties or fire.

Ukraine has launched a steady series of drone attacks on oil refineries and fuel depots across Russia over the past months, causing significant damage. (AP)







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