By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has returned to Kyiv after two days in eastern and southern Ukraine for meetings with commanders and Ukrainian troops to hear their requests, which he said would be passed on to top generals and other officials and addressed.
Zelenskiy said in a video posted on September 5 on X, formerly Twitter, that he visited 13 combat brigades during the tour.
“We talked to the brigade and battalion commanders. We awarded our warriors,” he said. “We are very proud of our warriors who returned to their positions after being wounded to join their brothers-in-arms.”
He also pledged that the brigades will receive “new deliveries and new production of our weapons” and said all requests from warriors will be addressed by senior generals, government officials, and Ukraine’s “international relations officials.”
The General Staff of the Ukrainian military said earlier on September 5 in its evening assessment of the operational situation that 20 combat clashes took place during the day.
“In the direction of Bakhmut, our defenders successfully repelled attacks by Russian troops in the area north of Klishchiyivka, Donetsk region,” the report said.
The Ukrainian military also said that its forces continue to hold back the offensive of Russian troops in the Maryinka area of the Donetsk region and will continue to attack in the Melitopol direction.
The assessments came as Kyiv made changes to its war leadership and rebuffed Western criticism of the pace of its nearly three-month-long counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by Russia.
Zelenskiy dismissed Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, in a decree signed on September 5. Two days earlier, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov submitted his resignation in what Zelenskiy said was a decision to bring in “new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society as a whole.”
Reznikov, who played a key role in persuading Ukraine’s Western partners to provide billions of dollars in military aid and sophisticated weapons to assist the country after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, will be replaced by Rustem Umerov, a Ukrainian politician of Crimean Tatar origin.
Unidentified U.S. officials have recently expressed frustration at the progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive and have questioned the tactics being used to overcome Russia’s own counteroffensive in the northeast and formidable defenses in the southeast.
Washington later said that the criticism was “not helpful” and that the United States had recently seen “notable success” achieved by Kyiv’s military.
In a September 2 Telegram post, Zelenskiy pushed back at the criticism, saying that “Ukrainian forces are moving forward. Despite everything, and no matter what anyone says, we are advancing, and that is the most important thing.”
The following day, the Ukrainian military claimed it had breached Russia’s first line of defense in the Zaporizhzhya region after weeks of painstaking demining.
The American Institute For The Study Of War (ISW) on September 4 said in an assessment of the battleground situation that Ukrainian forces in the southeastern Zaporizhzhya region had breached formidable Russian defensive obstacles.
“Ukrainian light infantry has advanced to positions beyond anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles that comprise the current Russian defensive layer” in the west of the region, the U.S. Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in an assessment of the battleground situation in Ukraine on September 4.
“Ukrainian forces likely intend to hold those positions.”
The ISW said that Ukrainian soldiers had advanced past Russian defenses southeast of the town of Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhya. Ukrainian forces there are attempting to reach the city of Melitopol in an attempt to cut off a land bridge that links Russian-occupied territory in the east to the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014.
The research group said that Ukrainian forces had approached Russian defensive lines in other areas of the southeast and were widening breaches at other points in the area.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Zaporizhzhya region has become the most recent hot spot. Shoigu told Russian military officers that Ukraine has brought up reserve brigades trained by Kyiv’s Western allies to fight in the region. He offered no evidence for his claim, which could not be independently verified.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that its air defense systems late on September 5 destroyed a Ukraine-launched drone over the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine. The ministry did not say whether there were any casualties or damage. It was not possible for RFE/RL to independently verify the report.