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Zelenskiy Visits Mariupol As City Celebrates Fifth Anniversary Of 'Liberation'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (file photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the Ukrainian port of Mariupol to take part in activities to mark the fifth year of the city being liberated from Russia-backed separatists.

Sitting on the shores of the Sea of Azov, Mariupol lies about 20 kilometers from the front line of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where some 13,000 people have died since April 2014, a month after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Zelenskiy attended joint military exercises and was on hand for the opening of a demining center.

"We must now thoroughly redistribute the maximum of our attention to the Donbas," Zelenskiy said, referring to the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk under separatist control.

"This is our land, our territory, and we want people from the other side, in the temporarily occupied territories, to see that Ukraine is flourishing here," he said.

After the official part of the visit, Zelenskiy visited the city center, took selfies with people, and even ran through a park fountain with children.

Earlier, thousands of people attended a military parade in Mariupol to mark five years of being free from separatist control.

"The lesson for Donbas is that when Russian forces leave, peace begins," Kurt Volker, U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, tweeted on June 14.

In 2015, rocket strikes hit a residential area of Mariupol, killing 30 people and wounding more than a hundred.

With reporting by UNIAN, AFP, and Interfax