Russian forces launched a deadly attack on a town in eastern Ukraine on Saturday morning as President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the 500th day of the war with a show of defiance, sharing a video of himself visiting Snake Island, a strip of land in the Black Sea that. became a powerful symbol of his country’s resistance to the invasion.

At least six civilians were killed and five others were wounded when Russian forces shelled a residential area of ​​the city of Lyman at about 10 am, Ukraine’s defense ministry said. said on Twitter, adding that rescue efforts were ongoing.

The morning attack was a grim reminder of the toll taken on Ukraine by 500 days of war. Mr Zelensky paid tribute on Saturday to all those who lost their lives, using the backdrop of Snake Island to underline Ukrainian resolve.

At the start of the war in February, an audio recording captured Ukrainian border guards on the island, which is 20 miles off the coast of Odessa, defying an order from a Russian warship to surrender with a memorable burst of profanity that turned into a rallying cry. , immortalized on stamps and on billboards across the country.

In the video posted on Saturday, Mr Zelensky honored the “heroes” who fought for Snake Island, calling the battle that finally forced Russian troops to withdraw last June “one of the most important” since the full-scale invasion.

“Although this is a small piece of land in the middle of our Black Sea, it is a great proof that Ukraine will regain every bit of its territory,” Mr. Zelensky. said in the video, which showed him climbing off a boat and across a rocky landscape to lay blue and yellow flowers at a memorial.

It was not immediately clear when the video was shot: The Ukrainian leader was on a tour of NATO countries this week to drum up support for his country’s bid to join the alliance ahead of a summit next week.

The war has transformed Ukraine’s relationship with the world, adding momentum to its bid to join NATO and making Mr Zelensky a diplomatic liability. He has used the global spotlight to help Ukraine push billions in military aid to fend off Russian invaders, and recently to launch a widely anticipated counteroffensive to retake occupied territory — a campaign that is under intense scrutiny.

Kyiv views membership in NATO as the ultimate guarantee of its security; its application in September to join the alliance was made against the backdrop of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Although Mr. Zelensky has acknowledged that Ukraine will not join NATO anytime soon, as such a move would force the mutual defense alliance into direct military conflict with Russia, he has repeatedly urged its members to set a timetable for joining. In recent months, he has expressed hope that next week’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, could provide clarity.

Days before the meeting, Mr Zelensky launched a diplomatic offensive to press his case. He traveled to Bulgaria and the Czech Republic on Thursday and then Slovakia and Turkey on Friday, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a televised news conference early in the morning in Istanbul after his meeting with Mr Zelensky, Mr Erdogan said that “Ukraine definitely deserves NATO membership.”

But President Biden, who is scheduled to attend the summit during a trip to Europe next week, told CNN in an interview to be broadcast Sunday that Ukraine’s admission to NATO will most likely have to wait until after the war.

“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO on whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family right now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Mr. Biden was quoted as saying. excerpt published by CNN.

At the same time, Mr. Biden defended what he called the “very difficult” decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions, which are banned by many of America’s closest allies and can cause serious injuries months or even years after fighting ends. . .

Ultimately, the president determined that disarming Ukraine would be tantamount to leaving it defenseless against Russia. He said it was a temporary move to hold off Ukraine until production of conventional artillery rounds could be ramped up.

“The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with CNN.

Ukrainian forces are about a month into their counteroffensive, a slow and bloody attack aimed at driving Russian forces from the south and east of the country.

Although bolstered by training and sophisticated new weapons from Western allies, Kyiv’s forces have made only small gains, and the fierce fighting has cost Ukraine an unknown number of casualties, along with some of its newest tanks and armored vehicles.

As the counteroffensive rages, Russian forces have continued to fire missiles and launch drones at Ukrainian towns and villages far from the front lines.

On Saturday morning, the air force of Ukraine said it had captured five Iranian-made attack drones suddenly – but that others avoided air defenses and hit “industrial and infrastructure objects” in two regions of the country.

One man was injured when drones hit the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, according to the regional military administration. It said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that agricultural business was affected, causing fires that also destroyed equipment and several warehouses.

Local officials also reported artillery attacks in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine and the Kherson region in the south, which has been under relentless Russian bombardment.

On the eve of the 500th day, United Nations said it was confirmed the deaths of more than 9,000 civilians — including more than 500 children — since the full-scale invasion, calling it a “somber milestone” in a war that “continues to exact a terrible toll.” It warned that the true death toll was likely to be much higher.

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