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Ukraine war latest: Zelensky visits southern Ukraine as the military continues efforts to liberate the rest of Kherson Oblast

by Asami Terajima January 30, 2023 11:12 PM 3 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the south of Ukraine during his trip on Jan. 30, 2023, where he met visiting Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and discussed front-line situations, as well as the region's recovery process, with local officials. (President's Office)
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Key developments on Jan. 30:
  • Zelensky visits Mykolaiv Oblast with Danish Prime Minister
  • Ukrainian military: Russian forces unprepared for major combat operation in the south due to equipment shortage
  • State Border Guard: Around 9,000 Russian troops deployed in Belarus
  • Russian governor: Additional Russian troops, military equipment to arrive in Kursk Oblast ‘in next few days’

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited southern Ukraine on Jan. 30, where the military said a Kyiv-led counteroffensive was still underway to liberate the rest of Kherson Oblast.

Southern Operational Command spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk said on television that Ukrainian forces were conducting a “quite powerful” operation on the east bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.

Humeniuk claimed that Russian forces, who had withdrawn from the west bank (where Kherson city sits) in November amid the Ukrainian counteroffensive, were unprepared for a major combat operation due to equipment shortage.

On Jan. 30, Zelensky made a surprise trip to Mykolaiv Oblast, which neighbors Kherson Oblast and is home to the Russian-occupied Kinburn Spit, to discuss the front-line situation in the south of Ukraine and the region’s recovery process with local officials, according to the President’s Office.

“The region is heroically withstanding all the attacks of terrorists,” Zelensky said of his trip, where he inspected Mykolaiv’s infrastructure with visiting Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

The president said later in his evening address that Denmark would join the Grain from Ukraine program – Zelensky’s initiative to help poor African and Asian countries suffering from famine.

Zelensky’s visit to Mykolaiv Oblast comes more than two months after Ukraine liberated the southern regional capital of Kherson and its surrounding areas amid a long-anticipated counteroffensive. The offensive from both sides in Ukraine’s south appears to have stalled since November.

However, the south of Ukraine – particularly the liberated parts of Kherson Oblast – continues to be heavily shelled by Russian forces. On Jan. 29, a Russian shelling of residential areas in Kherson killed at least three people.

“The main task of the enemy is to terrorize the civilian population, this hostile tactic does not work,” military spokeswoman Humeniuk said in the same TV interview.

Donbas remains Russia’s key target

The front line in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where Russia claimed to be making gains last week, remains unchanged, according to Yevhen Yerin, a spokesman of the Southern Operational Command of Ukrainian forces.

“There are no military clashes or preparations for offensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia direction,” Yerin said on television.

Russia is concentrating its “main efforts” in the eastern Donbas, where it is still waging the “fiercest battles,” Yerin reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in its Jan. 30 briefing that its forces were conducting offensives around the town of Vulhledar in the central-western part of Donetsk Oblast.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces mentioned the Russian attack in its evening briefing, along with heavy shellings on scores of other Donbas settlements over the past day.

Meanwhile, additional Russian troops and military equipment will arrive in Russia’s Kursk Oblast, which borders Ukraine, “in the next few days,” Governor Roman Starovoit said. He claimed it was “to protect the state border and ensure security” in his region, as quoted by the independent Russian media outlet Meduza.

Ukraine-Belarus border

On the northern front, Russia began pulling out its formerly deployed troops that have undergone joint training in Belarus with new ones, according to State Border Guard Service spokesman Andriy Demchenko.

Speaking to the public broadcaster Suspilne, Demchenko said that the situation along the Ukraine-Belarus border remains “quite tense” but “completely under control.”

The spokesman added that Kyiv has not observed Russia moving its military equipment or units of military personnel closer to the Ukraine border.

Ukraine border guards’ report comes amid growing concerns that Russia could renew its invasion from Belarus, with the help of the Belarusian army joining this time.

Demchenko estimated that there were around 9,000 Russian troops in the Belarusian territory as of Jan. 30.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned Belarus against getting directly involved in Russia's war efforts and helping it to open up a northern front in Ukraine.

While Belarus and Russia continue to hold joint military drills near the border, Russia would need to form a strike force to launch an offensive from Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus, according to Ukraine’s assessment.

Ukraine has thus far not reported that Russia has formed a strike force yet.

Since the 2022 invasion, Russian forces have used Belarusian territory to cross into Ukraine at the early stage of the war and to fire missiles at Ukraine.

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