Richard Branson meets Zelensky as Russian forces pound Bakhmut

British billionaire Richard Branson meets Ukraine’s wartime leader Zelensky as Russian forces pound Bakhmut with missiles

  • Richard Branson became new ambassador for UNITED24, Ukraine’s official fundraising platform 
  • Zelensky thanked Branson for his support of the nation during the conflict

Richard Branson met with Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday as Russian forces pound Ukraine with missiles.   

The Virgin Galactic founder met Ukraine’s president in Kyiv, where he became a new ambassador for UNITED24, Ukraine’s official fundraising platform.

Thanking British billionaire Branson for his support, Zelensky said: ‘It is very important that famous and influential personalities keep joining this platform. One of our key tasks is to keep the world’s focus on Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has been going on for over a year.’

Branson told Zelensky that on the way to Kyiv he met some soldiers in Lviv, including one ‘who lost both arms and a leg and he was still smiling and positive and wanted to get back to the frontline’. 

Richard Branson poses for a picture with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a meeting, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 10, 2023

Branson attends a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 10, 2023

Earlier Branson was in Bucha, outside Kyiv, with American philanthropist Howard Buffett, supporting the construction of a kitchen that will help feed children in educational facilities. 

The kitchen will aid communities in Bucha, Borodianka and Nemishaevo.

Branson attended an event for the kitchen with Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk, Deputy Head of the Presidential Office Oleksiy Kuleba and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.

Mayor Fedoruk said on Telegram on Monday: ‘More than 10,000 hot meals will be cooked here every day for our children. Another similar factory will be built in the Kharkiv region with Mr. Howard’s support as well.’ 

Branson also met with Zelensky in June, a few months after the invasion started on February 24. 

Branson wrote in a letter on his website that he talked with Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kubela and a group of Ukraine business leaders while also stopping off at some of the sites Russians had attacked since the war broke out.

A Ukrainian service members ride a BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues near the front line city of Bakhmut, April 6

A group of Ukrainian soldiers ride atop an APC on the frontline in Bakhmut on Saturday, April 8

‘My main purpose in going to Kyiv was to meet and listen to Ukrainians, to understand their fears and concerns and also to learn what business, in partnership with civil society and governments, can do to support Ukraine most effectively,’ he wrote.

Branson said he saw Zelensky close to the end of his visit for a ‘personal meeting’ that included members of the president’s cabinet.

‘The contrast to our first conversation, just two days prior to the invasion, couldn’t be any greater,’ Branson said. ‘In the eyes of the world and his own people, the President has emerged as a rare wartime leader who projects both unbreakable spirit and indefatigable determination to see this war through and repel the aggression.’

On Monday, Russian forces pressed attacks on frontline cities in eastern Ukraine, while Ukrainian officials played down a report that Kyiv is amending some plans for a counter-offensive due to a leak of classified US documents.

The Russians were pounding Ukrainian positions around besieged Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region and other cities and towns with air strikes and artillery barrages, Kyiv said.

‘The enemy switched to so-called scorched earth tactics from Syria. It is destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery fire,’ Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said of Bakhmut.

The small city on the edge of a chunk of Russian-controlled territory in Donetsk has for months been the biggest battleground of the war, now in its second year.

The head of the Moscow-controlled part of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said Russian forces now held 75% of the city.

Moscow’s military was also targeting the city of Avdiivka.

‘The Russians have turned Avdiivka into a total ruin,’ said Pavlo Kyrylenko, Donetsk’s regional governor, describing an air strike on Monday that destroyed a multi-storey building.

‘In total, around 1,800 people remain in Avdiivka, all of whom risk their lives every day.’

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