Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky are courting key allies on Thursday, seeking to bolster their efforts in a war whose fortunes have swung in Ukraine’s favor in recent days.
In Uzbekistan’s ancient city of Samarkand, Putin hoped to break his international isolation and further cement his ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a geopolitical alliance increasingly seen as a powerful counterweight to Western powers.
Putin and Xi were to meet individually and discuss Ukraine, according to the Russian president’s foreign affairs adviser.
In Kyiv, Mr. Zelensky avoided a traffic accident the night before that left him without major injuries, officials said.
On the agenda was a meeting with the head of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, who again showed full commitment to the cause of Ukraine.
Ms von der Leyen said she would address “how to continue to bring our economies and our people together as Ukraine moves towards membership” in the bloc, which is still years away even under the best of circumstances.
While Russian forces in some areas are being pushed further and further to the border, Russia is still attacking from behind the front line.
It fired missiles at the reservoir dam near Zelensky’s birthplace of Kryvyi Rih, forcing local authorities to carry out emergency works to ensure there was no threat to the population.
Kryvyi Rih chief Oleksandr Vilkul said Thursday that officials blew up two dams to help the river, adding that levels had begun to drop.
The attack so close to his roots angered Mr Zelensky, who said the strikes had no military value.
“In fact, hitting hundreds of thousands of ordinary civilians is another reason why Russia will lose,” he said in his late-night speech Wednesday afternoon.
Zelensky himself remained in good spirits, saying on Wednesday that nearly 400 seats had been regained in less than a week of fighting.
“It was an unprecedented move by our warriors: the Ukrainians once again did what many considered impossible,” he said.
He is expected to call for more Western military aid, which has been essential to fuel the counter-offensive, and call for even tougher sanctions against Moscow as the war drags into its seventh month.
Despite Ukraine’s renewed vigor on the battlefield and early rumblings of criticism at home, Putin remains steadfast in his determination to completely subdue Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
After a phone call with Putin earlier this week, Scholz said that “unfortunately, I can’t tell you that he has now realized that it was a mistake to start this war.”
He added: “There has been no indication that new attitudes are now emerging.”