After the withdrawal of Russian troops, the Ukrainians celebrate their interim success in the liberated areas in the east of the country. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Izyum in the Kharkiv region on Wednesday, took selfies with soldiers of the Ukrainian army and had his picture taken next to the Ukrainian flag, photos on the 44-year-old's Telegram channel showed. "Our blue and yellow (flag) is flying over the liberated Izyum," said Zelenskyy.
He also announced a further advance of the Ukrainian army: "We are moving in only one direction - forward and to victory". The joy of the success was clouded by the first reports from the Ukrainian authorities on alleged war crimes by the occupiers.
The Inspector General of the German Armed Forces, Eberhard Zorn, was cautious about the Ukrainians' chances of further success. At best, he sees "counterattacks that can be used to win back locations or individual sections of the front, but not to push Russia back across the board," Zorn told Focus.
To further support Ukraine, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wanted to travel to the country attacked by Russia today and meet Zelenskyy there. Meanwhile, Moscow remains unyielding and once again justified the more than 200-day war of aggression against the neighboring country.
The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanischyna told the French broadcaster France24 that there had recently been certain contacts from the Russian side. At the same time, she qualified: "We shouldn't just talk about the negotiations, but also the purpose of these contacts by Russia." Russia may only want to distract with such proposals, she said. "We will be ready to negotiate when the moment is right for Ukraine."
Kremlin: security guarantees for Ukraine Danger for Russia
The Kremlin on Wednesday described a concept for security guarantees presented by Ukraine as a threat to Russia. Ukraine is still striving for NATO membership, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency. "Accordingly, the greatest danger for our country remains and the reason for the necessity of the military special operation remains current, yes it is even more topical," said the 54-year-old. Russia's position on the concept is "negative".
On Tuesday, Kyiv presented a concept for the time after the end of the war. Among other things, a group of countries should guarantee the security of Ukraine politically and legally. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) called Russia's President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Tuesday after a month-long break and pushed for a diplomatic solution.
During her trip to Kyiv, EU Commission President von der Leyen also wants to work towards Ukraine gaining access to the European internal market. In a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, she also promised Ukraine 100 million euros to rebuild destroyed schools. Russia's attacks destroyed more than 70 schools in Ukraine.
Von der Leyen did not expect the EU sanctions to be lifted in the foreseeable future. "I want to leave no doubt that the sanctions will last," she said. Moscow is responsible for the fact that the Russian economy is falling behind. The war is not only aimed at Ukraine, she stressed. "This is a war on our energy supplies, a war on our economy, a war on our values and a war on our future."
Inspector General doubts Ukrainians' strength for counter-offensive
The Ukrainian army acts "wisely, rarely offers a broadside and conducts operations with confidence and very flexibly," said Bundeswehr Inspector General Zorn. Two weeks ago he said that the entire Donbass would be in Russian hands in six months. "Today I say: They won't make it." But the highest-ranking soldier in the Bundeswehr doubts whether the Ukrainians really have the strength for a counteroffensive: "They need a superiority of at least 3 to 1." Zorn also defended the previous German arms deliveries and described the list as "considerable".
Fines and imprisonment for Ukrainian "battle song" in Crimea
Meanwhile, on Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia, a court handed down prison sentences for a Ukrainian song. The court in the city of Bakhchisarai ordered six "organizers and participants of the wedding" to prison terms of between 5 and 15 days and fines of the equivalent of more than 800 euros, according to local media. The song was dubbed a "battle song of Ukrainian nationalists" in the reports.
A video shows the wedding guests dancing wildly to a patriotic song that has become a symbol of Ukraine's resistance to February's Russian invasion. The court used paragraphs banning "Nazi symbolism" and the ban on discrediting the Russian armed forces as the legal basis. The owner of the restaurant later distanced himself from the incident in a video.
The Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia in spring 2014 after the pro-Western coup in Kyiv. Retrieving the peninsula using military means is one of the declared goals of the leadership in Kyiv.