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Ukrainian leader woos allies as Russia hits hometown

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy worked Thursday to add political momentum to Ukraine’s recent military gains against Russia, as missile strikes that caused flooding near his hometown demonstrated the Moscow’s determination to regain battlefield advantage.

A week after a Ukrainian counteroffensive prompted Russian troops to withdraw from a northeastern region, Zelenskyy met with European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen on her third wartime visit. in Kyiv. Von der Leyen publicly expressed the wholehearted support of the 27-nation bloc and wore an outfit in Ukraine’s national colors.

“It is absolutely vital and necessary to support Ukraine with the military equipment it needs to defend itself. And they have proven that they are capable of doing this, if they are well equipped,” he said. she declared.

Underlining the scale of the nearly 7 months of fighting, air raid sirens sounded repeatedly in the Ukrainian capital during von der Leyen’s meeting with Zelenskyy, showing the fear and damage that Russian troops could still inflict .

Ukrainian officials said Russian missile strikes on a checkpoint near Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s birthplace and central Ukraine’s largest city, raged through some streets. More than 100 houses flooded.

Russian military bloggers accused the attack of aiming to flood downstream areas where Ukrainian forces have been making inroads as part of their counteroffensive. Ukraine’s local government chief later reported a second attack on the dam and said emergency crews were working to prevent more water from escaping.

The first attack so close to its roots angered Zelenskyy, who said the strikes had no military value.

“In fact, hitting hundreds of thousands of ordinary civilians is another reason Russia will lose,” he said.

But the president, who said Ukrainian forces had retaken nearly 400 Russian-occupied settlements in less than a week, remained in good spirits and shrugged off a traffic accident he was in after a visit to the battlefield early Thursday.

On a day when the political optics stood out, the UN General Assembly said it would vote on whether to make a procedural exception that would allow Zelenskyy to deliver a pre-recorded speech at a leaders’ meeting. world next week.

The document proposed for today’s vote would prompt the 193 members to express concern that leaders of ‘peace-loving sovereign states’ cannot participate in person ‘for reasons beyond their control due to foreign invasion, aggression, military hostilities which do not permit safe departure from and return to their country, or the need to discharge their duties and functions of national defense and security.”

In Washington, a volunteer Ukrainian doctor who was captured in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol in Ukraine told US lawmakers on Thursday he comforted other detainees during his three months of captivity in Russia, rocking them as men, women and child prisoners succumbed to torture and untreated wounds.

Ukrainian Yuliia Paievska, who was arrested by pro-Russian forces in March and held in changing locations in Russia’s allied territory in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, spoke to Commission lawmakers on the Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission.

Paievska, giving her most detailed public account of her time in captivity, described “prisoners in cells screaming for weeks, then dying from torture without any medical aid”. She continued, “So in this torment of hell, the only things they feel before death are abuse and more beatings.”

As Zelenskyy courted his allies with optimism over the events of the past week, Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a regional security summit in Uzbekistan.

Xi’s government, which said it had a “boundless” friendship with Moscow before the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, declined to criticize Russia’s military actions. At the start of their talks on Thursday, Putin thanked Xi and said he was ready to discuss China’s unspecified “concerns” over Ukraine.

“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukrainian crisis,” Putin said, facing Xi around a long table.

Putin’s official meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance created to counteract US influence, contrasted with Zelensky’s warm meeting with the chairman of the executive board. of the European Union.

On Thursday, the European Parliament completed the long process of approving a €5 billion preferential loan to Ukraine, a key part of a €9 billion aid package to offset the cost of the war.

Zelenskyy said more help cannot come quickly enough. He insisted that the West must impose more sanctions on the Kremlin and provide more weapons to its frontline soldiers.

Zelenskyy said the only way to keep Ukrainians safe is to “lock in the skies” over the country with air defense systems supplied by Western allies.

Germany, the economic powerhouse of the EU, announced on Thursday that it would send two additional MARS II multiple rocket launcher systems to Ukraine, along with 50 DINGO armored vehicles.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was pressuring Chancellor Olaf Scholz to decide to supply advanced tanks to Ukraine soon, as her counter-offensive gained ground.

“In the decisive phase that Ukraine is currently going through, I also do not believe that this is a decision that can be delayed for long,” Baerbock said.

Having little to repay his Western partners, Zelenskyy said von der Leyen’s name would be engraved on a plaque in a square near the Ukrainian parliament called “Walk of the Brave”.

“Here are the names of those leaders from Europe and the world who supported our state and stood with us against aggression,” he said.


In this photo provided by Ukraine’s emergency services, workers repair the structure after strikes damaged the dam and a nearby pumping station in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, Wednesday, September 14, 2022. Ukrainian officials speak of A Russian missile attack on September 14 hit a reservoir dam near Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, causing flooding in parts of the city. (Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP Photo)




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Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)




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A Ukrainian serviceman sits in a tank, in the recently recaptured area of ​​Izium, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)




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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (Sergey Guneev , Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via PA)




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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)




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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen greet each other in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)




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Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while addressing Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)




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Ukrainian paratroopers drive the vehicle displaying the Ukrainian flag on the pantone bridge crossing the Siverskiy-Donets river in the recently recaptured region of Izium, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)




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Destroyed and damaged houses after a Russian attack on a civilian neighborhood in the recently recaptured area of ​​Izium, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)