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Ukraine has liberated nearly 1,000 settlements from Russian invaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Wednesday.
Zelenskyy’s speech focused on the prospect of Ukraine’s membership of the European Union, celebrating the visit of European Council President Charles Michel. “This is the historic moment when we can develop maximum speed to join the European Union,” he said. “We have already proven 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 ever 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 the initial invasion of Russia, forces from Moscow had taken up position around the capital kyiv, besieging it for about a month. In recent weeks, however, Russia has refocused its war on eastern and southern Ukraine, particularly the breakaway region of Donbass.
The Russian withdrawal from the outskirts of kyiv shocked the world, as Ukrainians and visitors alike saw mass graves and scenes of torture and devastation in towns like Bucha. Still, Zelenskyy has touted his country’s ability to restore such communities, saying the achievement proves Ukraine’s readiness to join the EU.
“The return to normal life of liberated cities and communities in Ukraine continues,” the president said. “934 settlements have already been liberated. Police have resumed work in 435 settlements. Local self-government has started functioning in 431 communities. Humanitarian headquarters work has been initiated in 361 settlements.”
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“We are gradually restoring people’s access to medical and educational services, social welfare bodies,” Zelenskyy added. “We are restoring road infrastructure, electricity, gas and water supply.”
The President highlighted the many remaining threats, such as “mines and tripwire mines laid by the occupiers and unexploded shells”, noting that it takes a lot of time and effort “to neutralize them all”.
“Once again, I urge our citizens returning to liberated communities to be very careful,” he warned. “Do not enter territory that has not yet been surveyed. Do not enter the woods yet. If you see anything that looks like a mine or tripwire mine, report it immediately to police and rescuers. Do not delay or attempt to remove 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 resume work in Kyiv,” he said. “This is one of the necessary signals to tell Russia that there is no alternative to peace. There is no alternative to ending the war and ensuring peace. “total 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, including missions from Italy, Iran, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, the Holy See, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, France, Czech Republic, and Estonia.
The president acknowledged Russia’s ongoing offensive in the east and south, noting that the situation there remains “as serious as possible”.
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“The occupiers are not giving up on trying to secure at least one victory for themselves through a new full-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 navy commander issued a desperate plea for extraction on Wednesday.