Standing in cold drizzle among wreckage left behind by Russia’s chaotic retreat, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy looked to the sky on Wednesday toward his country’s flag flying over the main square of a city reclaimed just days ago in a stunning counterattack.

"Today, when we look up, we are looking for only one thing — the flag of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy told soldiers in front of the city’s bombed-out municipal building. "Our blue and yellow flag is already flying in de-occupied Izium. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village.”

The president’s unannounced appearance in Izium, about 9 miles from the front in Ukraine’s northeast, was a tangible sign of Ukraine’s soaring morale and its growing boldness — a demonstration that the military could ensure Zelenskyy’s safety even near the front and that it would staunchly defend what it had reclaimed.