Join our brand new verified AMN Telegram channel and get important news uncensored!

Zelenskyy steps up pleas for Western arms after visit to front lines

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned again of “extremely difficult” conditions and dwindling ammunition on the front lines following his military’s decision to withdraw from the strategic southeastern city of Avdiyivka to save lives and materiel in the face of the latest Russian onslaught.

“The situation now is extremely difficult in several parts of the front line, where Russian troops have specifically concentrated maximum reserves,” Zelenskiy said late on February 19 following a visit to Ukraine’s northern battle sector to visit troops.

“They’re taking advantage of the delays in [aid shipments] to Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, referring to his urgent pleas to Western partners for additional artillery shells and other offensive and defensive weapons.

Zelenskiy is fresh off his visit to the Munich Security Conference, where he told allies that “Ukrainians have proven we can force Russia to retreat…. Our actions are limited only by the sufficiency and length of the range of our strength…. [The] Avdiyivka situation proves this.”

Zelenskiy on February 19 visited the frontline northeastern city of Kupyansk, where he met with brigade leaders at a command post.

The frontline visit came hours after Russia said it took control of Ukraine’s largest coke plant in Avdiyivka, where Kyiv last week acknowledged defeat by pulling the last of its troops.

The capture of Avdiyivka, formerly a city of around 30,000 but now largely leveled and deserted, in the eastern Donetsk region marks Russia’s most significant territorial gain in nine months in its nearly two-year full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian forces cited Russian attacks overnight that appeared to be trying to grab further nearby territory and separate offensives in the northeast and south of the country.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said early on February 19 that its “‘Center’ grouping of troops, taking the offensive, took full control of the coke plant in Avdiyivka.”

It also claimed to have gained ground around the city, which Kyiv said last week it had withdrawn from to save the lives of Ukrainian troops.

Images appeared to show Russia’s tricolor flag flying over the Avdiyivka Coke and Chemical Plant.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s western military command said early on February 19 that the Russian Army had tried again repeatedly overnight to overtake Ukrainian positions in areas around Zaporizhzhya.

Local officials reported increased shelling of the city on February 17, leaving thousands of households without heat.

And the Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces had mounted 10 attacks on Ukrainian positions in Robotyny, in the Zaporizhzhya region, a day later.

They said Ukrainian troops had repelled the attacks.

RFE/RL cannot independently confirm battlefield accounts by either side in areas of the heaviest fighting.

Power in Kharkiv was cut off to around 9,500 people after shelling by Russian forces, according to the Ukrainian Energy Ministry.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on February 19 accused Ukraine of poisoning two Moscow-installed leaders of two regions falsely claimed as part of Russia and annexed in 2022 but said both men had survived.

It said the governor of Russian-held territory in Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik, had been poisoned in December and the leader of Russian-held territory in Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, was poisoned in August 2022.

Kyiv is thought to have mounted increasingly daring operations targeting Russian-appointed officials in Ukrainian regions under Russian control since the early months of the war.

On the diplomatic front, Japan said it has initiated talks on an investment treaty with Ukraine and said it would maintain support for the reconstruction of the war-torn country.

The details of negotiations were not provided, but Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in Tokyo that Japan would provide 1.25 billion euros ($1.35 billion) to support Japanese investments in Ukraine.

Japan is forbidden to provide direct military aid by its post-World War II constitution.