Live News: Zelensky vows to retake Crimea during visit to Kharkiv region

Volodymyr Zelenskyy with soldiers in Izyum

Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes part in a national flag raising ceremony in Izyum on Wednesday © Leo Correa/AP

Ukraine’s president pledged to liberate Crimea and all Russian-occupied territories, during a visit to the eastern town of Izyum which was taken over during last week’s counteroffensive in the region of Kharkov.

At a flag-raising ceremony in the central square of Izyum, Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the Ukrainian soldiers who helped liberate the region, describing them as “heroic people. . . to preserve our people, our hearts, our children and our future”.

Zelenskyy visited Izyum as Ukrainian troops continued their push east to retake territory in far eastern Donbass, which is mainly occupied by Russia, as well as parts of the southern coast stretching from the Sea of ​​Azov to the port city of Kherson in the Dnipro Delta.

“We have to send signals to our people who, unfortunately, are still under occupation,” Zelenskyy said.

He also referred to the Crimean peninsula, which Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed in 2014 before fomenting a proxy war in Donbass that simmered for eight years before the February invasion.

“And my signal to the people of Crimea: we know they are our people and it is a terrible tragedy that they have been under occupation for more than eight years. We will go back,” Zelenskyy said.

“I don’t know exactly when. But we have plans and we will go back because it is our land and our people,” he added.

Zelenskyy said war crimes against civilians, including executions and torture, were uncovered over more than 4,000 km2 of the liberated region of Kharkiv.