Zelenskiy visits front line amid speculation on general
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited Ukrainian troops on the southeastern front and handed out medals, his office says amid intense speculation that his popular army chief could soon be sacked.
“It’s an honour to be here today. To support the warriors and award them. They face a difficult and critical mission to repel the enemy and defend Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a statement after visiting Zaporizhzhia region.
The presidential office said in the statement that Zelenskiy visited the Ukrainian military’s forward positions near the village of Robotyne, which is located almost on the battle line.
The southeastern settlement of Robotyne had been liberated in late August in the counteroffensive against Russian forces.
The president’s visit to the battle lines came at a time of uncertainty over the fate of army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi.
Two sources said on Friday that the Ukrainian government had informed the White House that it plans to fire the country’s top military commander overseeing the war against Russian occupation forces.
The alleged move to oust Zaluzhnyi, who has clashed with Zelenskiy over a range of issues, follows a Ukrainian counteroffensive last year that failed to recover significant amounts of Russian-held territory.
Known as “the Iron General,” Zaluzhnyi is extremely popular.
His removal could hurt morale among Ukrainian troops battling to hold positions along more than 1000km of frontlines against a vast Russian force armed with large munitions stockpiles.
Zelenskiy on Sunday also appointed the mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, as the new governor of Zaporizhzhia region, which is partly occupied by Russian troops.
The Ukrainian army said on Telegram that its forces destroyed a control centre for Russian army combat drones on Sunday.
Several armoured vehicles were also destroyed during fighting on the left bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region in the south of the country.
Kherson was largely occupied shortly after the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.
In November last year, Ukrainian forces succeeded in liberating the parts of the region located on the right bank of the river – including the regional capital Kherson of the same name.
Ukraine said the destroyed control centre was used to electronically pilot the combat drones deployed by Russia on their flight to targets within Ukraine.
The information provided by the Ukrainian armed forces could not be independently verified.
Further east, at least 28 people were killed and 10 injured in the Ukrainian shelling of a bakery in Lysychansk, which is occupied by Russian troops, local authorities said on Sunday.
“The Ukrainian forces shelled a bakery in Lysychansk, civilians are among the rubble,” wrote Leonid Pasechnik, the head of pro-Russian separatists forces in the Luhansk region, on his Telegram channel.
He said those responsible would be punished.
The city was shelled with HIMARS rocket artillery, the city said.
Russian officials accused Ukraine of deliberately targeting the bakery in the area, knowing that there were many people in the bakery at the time.
Ukraine has not commented on the attack.