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Zelenskiy Honours Ukrainian Villagers Held Captive In Basement

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a visit to the village of Yahidne, Chernihiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2023.
Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday paid tribute to the courage of nearly 400 residents of a village in north Ukraine held in a school basement under Russian occupation for 27 days one year ago.

The Ukrainian leader travelled to Yahidne, where he gave an emotional speech recalling how villagers were kept captive in a space less than 200 square metres during the first month of Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

He said that 11 people died during the ordeal.

“These people somehow lived and waited for Ukraine in the dark,” said Zelenskiy who appeared visibly moved on the anniversary. “They lived standing and sitting.”

Zelenskiy was joined on the visit to Yahidne, a village in Chernihiv region, by German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck and Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric.

Zelenskiy has made several trips to front-line regions in the last two weeks.

Zelenskiy thanked Habeck and Buric for attending and said the basement was important for Ukraine’s allies to see.

“It’s important to see this and to be in these basements to understand whether to help Ukraine or to keep thinking how to find a way to talk with Russia,” he said.

Zelenskiy said Russian troops and leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, were responsible for the tragedy.

Russia denies involvement in war crimes and has called a warrant for Putin’s arrest issued by the International Criminal Court unacceptable and outrageous.

“Having seen all this, I can wish the President of Russia to spend the rest of his days in a basement with a bucket for a toilet,” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy and Habeck also visited wounded Ukrainian soldiers in a hospital in the region. At a sit-down meeting, Zelenskiy thanked Habeck for Berlin’s support.

The Ukrainian president also appeared in the provincial capital of Chernihiv to award it the status of “hero city”.

The city’s defenders fought off Russian attempts to capture it in the first month of Moscow’s invasion.

“The world saw that Ukraine was able to come out of this war as a winner… it was here that the world’s faith in Ukraine was confirmed,” Zelenskiy told the assembled soldiers and officials.

(Writing by Max Hunder; editing by Tom Balmforth and Angus MacSwan)

Anniversary of liberation of Chernihiv region
A view shows drawings made by children, who spent a month in the school basement with local residents during Russia’s attack on Chernihiv region, on the first anniversary of it’s liberation, in the village of Yahidne, Chernihiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2023.
Reuters
Zelenskiy visits the village of Yahidne on the first anniversary of its liberation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck visit the village of Yahidne, where hundreds of local residents spent a month in a school basement during Russia’s attack on Chernihiv region, on the first anniversary of its liberation, in Yahidne, Chernihiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2023.
Reuters
Ukraine's President Zelenskiy Zelenskiy and German Economy and Climate Minister Habeck visit the village of Yahidne on the first anniversary of its liberation, in Chernihiv region
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck visit the basement of a local school in the village of Yahidne, where hundreds of local residents spent a month during Russia’s attack on Chernihiv region, on the first anniversary of its liberation, in Yahidne, Chernihiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2023.
Reuters