UKRAINE/RUSSIA: Russian military forces obliterated key infrastructural facilities in Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson before fleeing the territory, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, as his Russian and Iranian counterparts engaged in strengthening their mutual economic, political, and trade ties.
The counter-offensive battles in the eastern region of the industrial Donetsk were hellish, says Zelensky, after pro-Moscow forces put up a tough fight before inevitably relinquishing on Friday the only regional capital it had captured since Putin’s “special military operation” in February.
Freed Kherson residents welcomed their Ukrainian saviours with great fanfare. At the same time, Zelensky said authorities, in their efforts to stabilise the region, dealt with nearly 2,000 mines, trip-wires, and unexploded bomb shells abandoned by the fleeing Russians.
On the road to Kherson, liberated villagers, holding flowers, greeted Ukrainian soldiers, who poured in to recapture the right bank of the Dnipro River after the stunning Russian retreat.
Zelensky addressed the public in his usual video address on Saturday and said Russians “everywhere have the same goal: to humiliate people as much as possible. But we will restore everything, believe me.”
“Before fleeing from Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all the critical infrastructure: communications, water, heat, electricity,” he added.
Ukraine strikes back
Ukraine has achieved great battle wins in nearly 60 regional settlements across Ukraine, benefiting partially from the Donetsk resistance, despite persistent Russian attacks, Zelensky added.
“There it is just hell – there are extremely fierce battles there every day,” he said. “But our units are defending bravely – they are withstanding the terrible pressure of the invaders, preserving our defence lines.”
Meanwhile, in a telephonic conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi, Russia and Iran emphasized “further enhancing cooperation in the political, trade and economic fields, including the transport and logistics sector,” according to the Kremlin on Saturday.
Russia fortifies ties with Iran
In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has actively sought to reinforce strategic ties with Iran, with a senior Russian security official having met Iranian leaders in Tehran on Wednesday.
The visit comes at a crucial time when Kyiv and the West have criticised Russia for allegedly using Iranian drones to target Ukraine’s civilian and energy infrastructure.
While Russia has consistently denied the allegations, Iran confirmed that it sent a small number of drones before the war began. Last month, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats spoke to Reuters that Iran had promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles.
According to a Saturday meeting briefing, Ukraine will decide on the timing and contents of any negotiation framework with Russia, according to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Phnom Penh.