Zelensky’s surprise departure from Kyiv

The Ukranian president has been holed up in Kyiv since war broke out, but on Sunday he left the capital to make a surprise visit to the frontline.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the country’s war-ridden east for the first time since the Russian invasion, on a trip to Kharkiv region, from where Moscow has retreated in recent weeks.

Mr Zelensky’s office posted a video on Telegram of him wearing a bulletproof vest and being shown heavily destroyed buildings in Kharkiv and its surroundings.

“2,229 buildings have been destroyed in Kharkiv and the region. We will restore, rebuild and bring back life. In Kharkiv and all other towns and villages where evil came,” the post said.

The Ukrainian leader has been based in Kyiv since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale attack on February 24.

In the video, Ukrainian soldiers showed Mr Zelensky destroyed trucks on the side of a road going through a field.

“In this war, the occupiers are trying to squeeze out at least some result,” Mr Zelensky said in a later post.

“But they should have understood long ago that we will defend our land to the last man. They have no chance. We will fight and we will definitely win.” He also met local officials — the governor of Kharkiv region and the mayor of the city — to discuss reconstruction programs for the region.

He called on them to “find cool projects” to rebuild destroyed areas. “This is a chance for such districts to have a new face,” said Mr Zelensky.

EU discuss further sanctions

His visit comes as Ambassadors from the 27 European Union member states examine a compromise that could enable them to break the deadlock on a sixth round of economic sanctions against Russia, including a landmark halt to Russian oil imports, EU sources told AFP.

The latest round of proposed sanctions has been blocked by landlocked Hungary, which has no access to seafaring oil cargo ships and is dependent for 65 per cent of its oil needs on Russian crude supplied via the Druzhba pipeline.

Budapest has rejected as inadequate a proposal to allow it two years longer than other EU states to wean itself off Russian oil.

It wants at least four years and at least 800 million euros ($860 million) in EU funds to adapt its refineries to process non-Russian crude and boost pipeline capacity to neighbouring Croatia.

The compromise solution put to national negotiators on Sunday consists in excluding the Druzhba pipeline from a future oil embargo and only imposing sanctions on oil shipped to the EU by tanker vessel, the sources said.

The Druzhba pipeline accounts for a third of all EU oil supplies from Russia. Maritime cargoes account for the remaining two thirds.

The compromise was tabled by France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, and by the European Council, which represents the governments of the EU nations.

Its aim is to break a stalemate that has, since early May, prevented the EU from imposing a sixth round of sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

It would end the purchases of Russian crude within six months and Russian petroleum products by the end of the year. It would also impose additional sanctions on Russian banks and expand the list of Russian individuals black-listed by the bloc.

Another option under consideration would be to postpone the entire package of new sanctions until a solution can be found to provide Hungary with alternative oil supplies, the sources said.

The search for a compromise has accelerated in recent days to avoid divisions over Russia clouding the summit of EU heads of state and government due to take place in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday.

Ukraine’s Mr Zelensky is to address the summit by video link when it begins on Monday afternoon.

If EU ambassadors succeed on Sunday in reaching a compromise on an oil embargo, it will still need to be approved by their governments before it can be put to the

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