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Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy rallies troops for a 'new phase' of war

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian president Zelenskyy talks with a commander at a position in Avdiivka, Donetsk.
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian president Zelenskyy talks with a commander at a position in Avdiivka, Donetsk. Copyright AP/Ukrainian Presidential Press Office
Copyright AP/Ukrainian Presidential Press Office
By Euronews with AP
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Ukraine's President on Tuesday visited frontline positions in the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, one of the hot spots of the ongoing war.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesdaymade his latest trip to visit units in Avdiivka, an eastern city in the Donetsk province where fierce battles are taking place. He heard first-hand reports about fighting and handed out awards.

Zelenskyy’s visits to areas feeling the brunt of Russia’s full-scale invasion gathered pace last month as he shuttled across the country, often by train. As with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian's wartime trips usually aren’t publicised until after he’s already left an area.

Photographs issued by Zelenskyy's office showed the Ukrainian president taking selfies with soldiers, eating cake with them and drinking out of paper cups.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has become largely deadlocked amid heavy fighting in the east, particularly around the Donestk province city of Bakhmut, which for eight and a half months has seen the longest and bloodiest battle so far.

Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia provinces were annexed illegally by Russia in September, following local referendums that Ukraine and the West have called shams. 

Both then and now, large parts of Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as well as some areas of Luhansk province, have remained under Ukrainian control. In November, Russian forces ceded territory in Kherson province, including the region’s namesake capital.

In a related development, the Moscow-appointed governor of the occupied part of Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, went to the Belarus capital Minsk and won pledges of support from President Alexander Lukashenko - a longtime Putin ally.

Analysts said Pushilin’s visit was likely approved by the Kremlin and sought to remind Kyiv about the possibility of Belarus joining Russia in the war.

“The Kremlin forces Minsk to get involved in the war more actively in order to pressure Ukraine with threats of Belarus joining,” Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich said in a telephone interview. 

“It is clear that Pushilin’s visit to Minsk has been synchronised with Putin’s trip to the occupied Ukrainian regions and aims to show that the Belarusian threat hasn’t gone away.”

Meanwhile, at least three civilians were killed and 11 wounded in Ukraine between Monday and Tuesday, according to Zelenskyy's office. 

Most of the casualties occurred in the Donbas, the eastern region made up of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, the office said. Six people were wounded in artillery fire in the city of Kherson.

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