By Dan Peleschuk
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday visited the southern region of Kherson, where he made a pledge to local officials and villagers to repair damage caused by Russia’s invasion.
The visit, to a region where Ukraine pushed back occupying Russian forces in a successful counteroffensive late last year, appeared intended to underline the country’s resilience 13 months after Russia’s large-scale invasion.
It was Zelenskiy’s second trip outside Kyiv this week, following a morale-boosting visit to eastern Ukraine on Wednesday in which he handed out medals to troops near the frontline city of Bakhmut and praised their valour.
“I spoke with local residents about their current issues and needs,” Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app under video footage of Thursday’s visit.
The footage showed him greeting smiling villagers in the heavily damaged settlement of Posad-Pokrovske, and discussing the region’s reconstruction with local officials.
“We will restore everything, we will rebuild everything. Just like with every city and village that suffered because of the occupiers,” said Zelenskiy, who wore a military khaki top with a small Ukrainian flag on the chest.
His trips this week followed a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol last Saturday that was criticised by Kyiv, and pledges of unity between Beijing and Moscow during a visit to Russia by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Zelenskiy had visited the regional capital, Kherson, in November last year after Ukrainian forces ousted Russian troops following months of occupation. Workers there are now busy restoring power and the water supply.
“We have to ensure full restoration and protection of our energy sector!” Zelenskiy wrote in a separate post showing him inspecting energy infrastructure.
“I am grateful to everyone who works for this and returns the light to our people!”
He added that de-mining was another priority for territories from which Russian troops have been ousted.
(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)