President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on August 29 paid homage to the Ukrainian soldiers killed defending their country against Moscow’s invasion as the number of civilians who died as a result of indiscriminate Russian shelling continued to mount.
“Every year on August 29, we honor the memory of Ukrainian men and women who gave their lives defending our state,” Zelenskiy said in a statement released by his press office.
“There are no words that would be sufficient to fully describe the strength, majesty and self-sacrifice of a hero who remains forever in battle, so that only his people can preserve their will and gain victory. Words are always smaller than what we feel,” said Zelenskiy.
Zelenskiy also handed over Gold Star orders to the family members of 15 Ukrainian defenders who were posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine.
At least five civilians were killed over the past 24 hours by Russian shelling in eastern Ukraine, a regional official said on August 29 as fighting continued both in the east and southeast, where Ukrainian forces say are continuing to make advances toward the strategic city of Melitopol.
“The Russians killed five residents of the Donetsk region — two in Dalny, one in Toretsk, one in Lyman, and one in Velyka Novosilka,” Donetsk regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said early on August 29, adding that another four people were wounded.
Kyrylenko said that there were also victims in Mariupol and Volnovas, but their number was impossible to establish at the moment.
The latest toll came a day after four civilians were killed in the eastern region of Poltava by the Russian shelling of an industrial plant and one died in the southern region of Kherson.
The United Nations on August 29 confirmed the deaths of 9,511 in Ukraine and an overall civilian casualty count of 21,717 as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion, launched in February last year.
The UN’s rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said that from August 1-27, 585 civilians died in attacks, including five children. The actual number of casualties is thought to be much higher as information from some locations where fighting has been intense has yet to come in, while many other reports of deaths still need to be verified, the UN said.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces and Russian troops were locked in fierce combat in the east and southeast, with a total of more than 30 combat clashes registered over the past day, the General Staff of Ukraine’s military said in its daily report on August 29.
“The Defense Forces of Ukraine continue to conduct an offensive operation in the Melitopol direction,” the General Staff said, adding that Ukrainian forces were consolidating their gains.
Melitopol, in the Zaporizhzhya region, is a vital transit hub for Russian forces and a key link in its so-called “land bridge” between the Moscow-annexed Crimea and the parts of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russia.
On August 28, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar confirmed that the village of Robotyne, which sits along an important road leading from the town of Orikhiv to Tokmak on the way to Melitopol, has been liberated.
In Russia, the Defense Ministry said Russian forces downed two Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea.
The ministry earlier on August 29 said that two Ukrainian drones were shot down over the Tula region, south of Moscow, without specifying the precise time and location.
It did not mention any damages or casualties.
Earlier, the ministry reported the destruction of two drones on the evening of August 28 over the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine. There were no reports of casualties or damage.
Ukraine did not comment.
Moscow and other regions of Russia have been repeatedly targeted by drone attacks in recent weeks, with the capital city’s airports frequently interrupting their operations.
Zelenskiy said on August 28 that the next meeting of the command staff has two tasks.
“The first is a report on preparations for the winter. Various aspects, including security. Second: a program of preparation for the use of new combat aircraft,” he said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Zelenskiy said on August 27 that he expects “new defense packages for Ukrainian soldiers” in the coming weeks.