President Zelensky wore a bulletproof vest during his visit and toured heavily damaged buildings in the area.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspected troops on the front lines in Ukraine’s war-torn northeastern region of Kharkiv in his first official appearance since Russia began its invasion of the capital Kyiv and its vicinity on February 24.
On Sunday, Zelensky’s office posted a video on Telegram showing him wearing a bulletproof vest in heavily damaged buildings in and around Kharkiv.
“You risked your life for all of us and our country,” Zelensky was quoted as saying to Ukrainian soldiers by the President’s Office website, adding that the president also presented commendations and gifts to the military.
In the video of the visit, Ukrainian soldiers can be seen displaying the truck Zelensky destroyed by the side of the road through the fields.
“In this war, the occupiers tried to squeeze at least some results,” Zelensky said in a later article.
“But they should have known long ago that we will defend our land to the last man. They have no chance. We will fight and we will win.”
Al Jazeera’s Zain Basrawi in Kyiv said the president traveled to areas still under Russian attack to meet and thank Ukrainian troops.
His visit also sent a strong message that Ukraine remains “on solid footing” in the war against Moscow.
“This is of course a calculated risk and it shows the country is on solid footing, no doubt to boost or keep morale high as Ukraine continues to fight the Russians on multiple fronts in the east and south of the country,” Basra Wei said.
During his visit, Zelensky also met with local officials — the governor and mayor of the Kharkiv region — and discussed plans to rebuild the region.
“This is an opportunity for these regions to have new faces,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote on the Telegram app that the president visited Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where 31 percent of the territory is currently covered by Russia. Occupied, another 5% was taken back by the Russians occupied by the Ukrainian army.