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Ukraine has liberated nearly 1,000 settlements from the Russian invaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced late Wednesday.
Zelenskyy’s speech focused on the prospect of Ukraine joining the European Union, celebrating the visit of European Council President Charles Michel. “This is the historic moment when we can develop maximum speed in joining the European Union,” he said. “We have already proved that the Ukrainian state and public institutions are effective enough to withstand even the test of war. We are already doing as much to protect freedom on the European continent as other nations have never done.”
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In this context, the president touted Ukraine’s success in restoring communities that had been occupied by Russian forces earlier in the conflict. During Russia’s initial invasion, Moscow’s forces had taken up positions around the capital city of Kyiv, besieging it for about a month. In recent weeks, however, Russia has refocused its war on the east and south of Ukraine, particularly the breakaway Donbas region.
The Russian withdrawal from Kyiv’s outskirts has shocked the world, as Ukrainians and visitors have seen mass graves and scenes of torture and devastation in cities such as Bucha. Yet Zelenskyy touted his country’s ability to restore such communities, saying that this achievement proves Ukraine’s fitness to join the EU.
“The return to normal life of the liberated cities and communities of Ukraine continues,” the president said. “934 settlements have already been liberated. Police resumed work in 435 settlements. Local self-government started working in 431 communities. The work of humanitarian headquarters was launched in 361 settlements.”
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“We are gradually restoring people’s access to medical and educational services, to social protection bodies,” Zelenskyy added. “We are restoring road infrastructure, electricity, gas and water supply.”
The president highlighted many remaining threats, such as “mines and tripwire mines planted by the occupiers and shells that did not explode,” noting that it requires a good deal of time and effort “to neutralize them all.”
“Once again, I urge our citizens returning to liberated communities to be very careful,” he cautioned. “Do not enter the territory that has not yet been inspected. Do not go into the woods yet. If you see anything resembling a mine or a tripwire mine, report it to the police and rescuers immediately. Do not delay or attempt to remove hazardous items yourself.”
The president also celebrated the return of diplomatic teams to Kyiv.
“It is important that the EU Delegation and the embassies of friendly countries resumed work in Kyiv,” he said. “This is one of the signals needed to tell Russia that there is no alternative to peace. There is no alternative to ending the war and guaranteeing full security for Ukraine. The more diplomatic missions return to work in our capital, the stronger this important signal will be.”
Zelenskyy noted that 18 foreign missions are back to work in the capital city, including missions from Italy, Iran, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, the Holy See, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, France, the Czech Republic, and Estonia.
The president acknowledged Russia’s current offensive in the east and south, noting that the situation there remains “as severe as possible.”
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“The occupiers do not give up trying to gain at least some victory for themselves through a new large-scale offensive,” he said. “At least something they can ‘feed’ their propagandists with.”
Russian forces have nearly captured the strategic city of Mariupol, and a Ukrainian Marine commander published a desperate plea for extraction Wednesday.