Zelenskyy says Russian aggression is not just limited to Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraine >> Russia is targeting all of Europe with its invasion of Ukraine, and stopping Moscow’s aggression is vital to the security of all democracies, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Russian forces prepare to fight in the east of his country.
Addressing the “free people of a brave country,” Zelenskyy said in a nightly video message to Ukrainians that Russia’s war aim “should not be limited just to Ukraine” and that the “entire European project is one goal.”
“Therefore, it is not only the moral duty of all democracies, of all forces of Europe, to support Ukraine’s desire for peace,” he said. “It is indeed a defensive strategy for any civilized state.”
His speech came as civilians continued to flee eastern parts of the country before an expected attack and rescue workers searched for survivors in towns north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv that are no longer occupied by Russian forces.
Russia has withdrawn its troops from the northern part of the country and refocused on the eastern Donbass region, where Moscow-backed separatists fought Ukrainian troops for eight years and some before the war, now in its 46th day controlled areas.
Western military analysts said an arc of territory in eastern Ukraine was attacked, from Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest city – in the north to Kherson in the south. Newly released satellite imagery by Maxar Technologies collected on Friday showed a 13-kilometer convoy of military vehicles driving south through the town of Velykyi Burluk in the Donbas.
Western assessments, however, expressed increasing confidence in the Ukrainian defenders’ ability to repel Russian attacks and portrayed Russian troops as suffering from low morale and mounting casualties.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Russian military is trying to respond to the mounting casualties by bolstering troop levels with personnel discharged from military service since 2012.
In an update on Twitter, the ministry also said that the Russian military’s efforts to “generate more fighting power” include trying to recruit recruits from Transnistria, a breakaway region in Moldova that borders Ukraine.
Russian-backed separatists in eastern Moldova took up arms in 1992 to establish Transnistria, which is not internationally recognized and where Russia has about 1,500 troops.
Several European leaders have sought to show solidarity with struggle-torn Ukraine. In his video address, Zelenskyy thanked the heads of state and government of Great Britain and Austria for their visits to Kyiv on Saturday and the promise of further support.
He also thanked the President of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of Canada for a global fundraiser that raised more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) for the millions of Ukrainians who have fled their homes.
Zelenskyy reiterated his call for a full embargo on Russian oil and gas, which he described as the source of Russia’s “confidence and impunity.” Some European countries are heavily dependent on imported Russian energy.
“Freedom has no time to wait,” said Zelenskyy. “When tyranny begins its aggression against anything that keeps peace in Europe, immediate action must be taken.”
In an interview with The Associated Press at his heavily guarded presidential office complex, Zelenskyy said he was determined to negotiate a diplomatic end to the war despite Russia “torturing” Ukraine.
He also acknowledged that peace is unlikely to come quickly. So far, neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor other high-ranking officials have been involved in the talks.
“We must fight, but fight for life. You can’t fight for dust when there’s nothing and no people. That is why it is important to end this war,” said the President.
Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes against thousands of civilians during the invasion, including airstrikes on hospitals, a rocket attack that killed 52 people at a train station on Friday and shooting at residents of northern towns close by.
Vivid evidence of civilian killings emerged after Russian forces withdrew from Bucha and firefighters searched buildings in Borodyanka, another settlement outside of Kyiv. Russia has denied involvement in war crimes, falsely claiming the Bucha scenes were staged.
Ukrainian authorities have said they expect more mass killings once they reach the southern port city of Mariupol, also in Donbass, which has faced months of blockades and intense fighting. The city’s location on the Sea of Azov is crucial for building a land bridge from the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia captured from Ukraine eight years ago.
Ukrainian officials have been asking western powers on an almost daily basis to send in more arms and to further punish Moscow with sanctions, including banning Russian banks from the global financial system and a full EU embargo on Russian gas and oil.
During his visit on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expected further EU sanctions against Russia but defended his country’s previous opposition to the halt to Russian gas supplies.
A package of sanctions imposed this week will “not be the last,” said the Chancellor, admitting that “as long as people are dying, any sanction is insufficient.” Austria is militarily neutral and not a member of NATO.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit came a day after the UK pledged an additional £100 million ($130 million) in quality military equipment. Johnson also confirmed further economic support and guaranteed Ukraine an additional $500 million in World Bank loans, bringing the UK’s total loan guarantee to up to $1 billion.
In the interview with AP, Zelenskyy noted the growing support but expressed frustration when asked if the weapons and equipment Ukraine received from the West are enough to change the outcome of the war.
“Not yet,” he said, switching to English for emphasis. “Of course it’s not enough.”