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    Thursday, May 23, 2024

    Zelenskyy postpones all upcoming foreign visits as Ukraine faces a new Russian offensive

    In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

    KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said Wednesday that he has postponed all his upcoming foreign visits amid a new Russian offensive.

    Zelenskyy canceled all foreign visits “that were planned for the coming days,” his office said Wednesday on Telegram.

    The head of state instructed his team to reschedule the visits.

    “We are grateful to our partners for understanding,” the announcement said.

    Zelenskyy had been expected to visit Spain, and perhaps Portugal, later this week.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

    KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia's Defense Ministry said that air defenses shot down 10 U.S.-supplied Ukrainian missiles targeting the Crimean Peninsula early Wednesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent a second day visiting Kyiv, and Ukraine's army battled to contain a front-line push by the Kremlin's forces.

    The ATACMS long-range ballistic missiles were destroyed over the Black Sea, the ministry said. The U.S. included the Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS, in a military aid package in March.

    The Ukrainian attack came as Russian troops pressed their offensive in northeast Ukraine's Kharkiv region that began last week, marking the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began and forcing almost 8,000 local people to flee their homes. Together with Moscow's weekslong effort to build on its recent gains in the eastern Donetsk region, the more than two-year war has entered a critical stage for Ukraine's depleted army.

    Against that grim backdrop, with thousands of Ukrainian troops locked in fierce battles in towns and villages, Blinken on Tuesday pledged unceasing U.S. support for the country, during and beyond the war. He also tried to lift spirits in Kyiv, performing on guitar with a band at a city bar and eating pizza at a veteran-run restaurant.

    Russia is opening new fronts in order to stretch Ukraine's army, which is short of ammunition and manpower, along the about 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, hoping defenses will crumble. Russian artillery and sabotage raids have also been menacing Ukraine's northern Chernihiv and Sumy regions,

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Tuesday that the army has sent reinforcements to the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

    “It is too early to draw conclusions, but the situation is under control,” he said. Even so, Zelenskyy canceled a planned trip to Spain later this week, according to the Spanish government. It gave no reason for the cancellation.

    The pace of Russia's advance in the Kharkiv border region, where it launched an offensive late last week and has made significant progress, has slowed, the Institute for the Study of War said late Tuesday. The Washington-based think tank said Moscow's main aim there is to create a “buffer zone” that will prevent Ukrainian cross-border strikes on Russia's Belgorod region.

    Blinken on Wednesday visited a drone manufacturer on the outskirts of Kyiv and toured a grain transshipment facility where Ukrainian grain is loaded into containers for export by rail.

    Blinken praised the ingenuity of the process, which local companies adopted after traditional shipping routes were interrupted by Russia’s full-scale invasion, which began on Feb. 24, 2022.

    “Ukraine has had to adapt and adjust to this and it’s done so remarkably,” Blinken said.

    Meanwhile, Russian air defenses shot down several Ukrainian missiles over the Black Sea and near the Belbek air base, Sevastopol Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev said. Sevastopol is where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered.

    The fragments of downed missiles fell into residential areas but caused no casualties, Razvozhayev said.

    Russian air defenses also shot down nine Ukrainian drones, two Vilha rockets, two anti-radar HARM missiles and two Hammer guided bombs over the Belgorod region early Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said.

    Two people were injured in the village of Dubovoye when a Ukranian rocket set their house ablaze, according to Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov.

    The military said five other Ukrainian drones were downed over the Kursk region and three drones were shot down over the Bryansk region.

    The Defense Ministry also said that another Ukrainian drone was downed over the Tatarstan region. Tatarstan is located more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) east of the border with Ukraine.

    Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, said two drones attacked a fuel depot. He said there were no casualties or fire.

    Ukraine has launched a steady series of drone attacks on oil refineries and fuel depots across Russia over the past months, causing significant damage.

    ___

    Joseph Wilson contributed to this report from Barcelona, Spain.

    ___

    Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

    Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, leaves the stage after addressing students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

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