Putin and Zelensky court major allies as Ukraine makes gains
In Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelensky was shrugging off a traffic accident the previous night that left him with no major injuries, officials said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky are each courting major allies on Thursday, seeking to prop up their efforts in a war whose fortunes have tilted toward Ukraine in recent days.
In Uzbekistan’s ancient city of Samarkand, Mr Putin was hoping to break through his international isolation and further cement his ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a geopolitical alliance increasingly seen as a potent counterweight to the western powers.
Mr Putin and Mr Xi were due to meet one-on-one and discuss Ukraine, according to the Russian president’s foreign affairs adviser.
In Kyiv, Mr Zelensky was shrugging off a traffic accident the previous night that left him with no major injuries, officials said.
On the agenda was a meeting with European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen, who once more showed full commitment to Ukraine’s cause.
Ms von der Leyen said she would address “how to continue getting our economies and people closer while Ukraine progresses towards accession” to the bloc, which is still years away in even the best of circumstances.
While Russian forces in some areas are increasingly being pushed back toward the border, Russia is still striking from behind the front line.
It fired missiles at the dam of the reservoir close to Mr Zelensky’s birthplace, Kryvyi Rih, forcing local authorities into emergency works to make sure there was no threat to the population.
The head of Kryvyi Rih, Oleksandr Vilkul, said Thursday that officials blew up two dams to help the river flow and added that levels had begun to subside.
The attack so close to his roots angered Mr Zelensky, who said the strikes had no military value.
“In fact, hitting hundreds of thousands of ordinary civilians is another reason why Russia will lose,” he said in his nightly address late on Wednesday.
Mr Zelensky himself remained in a buoyant mood, saying on Wednesday that almost 400 settlements had been retaken in less than a week of fighting.
“It was an unprecedented movement of our warriors – Ukrainians once again managed to do what many considered impossible,” he said.
He is expected to ask for more western military aid, which has been essential in driving the counteroffensive, and request even harsher sanctions against Moscow as the war drags on into its seventh month.
Despite the renewed Ukrainian vigour on the battlefield and the first rumblings of criticism at home, Mr Putin is staying steadfast with his determination to fully subdue Ukraine, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
After a phone call with Mr Putin earlier in the week, Mr Scholz said that “unfortunately, I cannot tell you that the realisation has grown over there by now that this was a mistake to start this war”.
He added: “There has been no indication that new attitudes are emerging there now.”