Zelensky is postponing all upcoming foreign visits as Ukraine faces a new Russian offensive

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky postponed all his upcoming foreign trips as the Ukrainian military fought to contain an attack by Kremlin forces on the front lines, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a May 15 visited a drone production facility in Kiev on the second day of his visit. intended to reassure Ukrainians of continued American support.

Mr. Zelensky canceled all foreign visits “planned for the coming days,” his office said on May 15. The head of state instructed his team to reschedule the visits.

“We are grateful to our partners for their understanding,” the announcement said.

Mr Zelensky was expected to visit Spain, and perhaps Portugal, later this week. No reason was given for his decision, but Ukraine is struggling to fend off the latest Russian attack.

Mr. Blinken also toured a grain handling facility and a bionics factory, praising Ukrainian innovation and ingenuity in the face of wartime difficulties.

“Ukraine has had to adapt to this and it has done so in a remarkable way,” Mr Blinken said of grain exports now taking place by rail after traditional shipping routes were interrupted by Russia’s large-scale invasion, which began on February 24, 2022. .

Russian troops are carrying out a new offensive in the Kharkov region of northeastern Ukraine. It started last week and marked the largest incursion at the border since the full-scale invasion began, forcing nearly 8,000 local people to flee their homes. Together with Moscow’s weeks-long efforts to build on recent gains in the eastern Donetsk region, the more than two-year war has entered a critical phase for the exhausted Ukrainian army.

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Against that grim backdrop, with thousands of Ukrainian troops engaged in fierce fighting in cities and towns, Mr. Blinken on May 14 pledged continued American support to the country during and after the war. He also tried to lift spirits in Kiev, performing on guitar with a band at a city bar and eating pizza at a veteran-run restaurant.

Russia is opening new fronts to stretch the Ukrainian army, which is short on ammunition and manpower, across its roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, hoping its defenses will crumble. Russian artillery and sabotage attacks have also threatened Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv and Sumy regions.

Mr. Zelensky said in his late-night video address on May 14 that the army has sent reinforcements to the Kharkov and Donetsk regions.

“It is too early to draw conclusions, but the situation is under control,” he said.

The pace of Russia’s advance in the Kharkov border area, where it launched an offensive late last week and has made significant progress, has slowed, the Institute for the Study of War said in late May. The Washington-based think tank said Moscow’s main goal is to create a “buffer zone” that will prevent Ukrainian cross-border attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region.

Mr. Blinken visited a drone manufacturer on the outskirts of Kiev on May 15 and toured a grain handling facility where Ukrainian grain is loaded into containers for export by rail.

Mr Blinken praised the ingenuity of the process adopted by local companies after traditional shipping routes were interrupted by Russia’s large-scale invasion, which began on February 24, 2022.

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“Ukraine has had to adapt to this and it has done so in a remarkable way,” Mr Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Russian air defenses shot down several Ukrainian missiles over the Black Sea and near the Belbek air base, Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said. The headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet is located in Sevastopol.

The fragments of downed rockets hit residential areas but caused no casualties, Mr. Razvozhayev said.

Russian air defenses also shot down nine Ukrainian drones, two Vilha missiles, two anti-radar HARM missiles and two Hammer guided bombs over the Belgorod region on Wednesday morning, the Defense Ministry said.

According to Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, two people were injured in the village of Dubovoye when a Ukrainian missile set their house on fire.

The military said five other Ukrainian drones were downed over the Kursk region and three drones were shot down over the Bryansk region.

The Defense Ministry also said another Ukrainian drone had been downed over the Tatarstan region. Tatarstan is located more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) east of the border with Ukraine.

Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, said two drones attacked a fuel depot. He said there were no casualties or fires.

Ukraine has carried out a steady series of drone attacks on oil refineries and fuel depots across Russia in recent months, causing significant damage.

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