KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia is targeting all of Europe with its aggression and that stopping the invasion of Ukraine is essential for the security of all democracies.
In his late night speech to Ukrainians on Saturday, Zelenskyy said that the Russian aggression “was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone” and that the “entire European project is a target for Russia”.
“Therefore, it is not only the moral duty of all democracies, all the forces of Europe, to support Ukraine’s desire for peace,” he said. “This is basically a defense strategy for any civilized state.”
His address came as civilians continued to flee eastern parts of the country for an expected attack and firefighters searched for survivors in a northern city no longer occupied by Russian troops.
Several European leaders have made an effort to show solidarity with the war-torn nation† Zelenskyy thanked the leaders of Britain and Austria for their visits on Saturday to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and for their pledges of continued 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 Ukrainians who have fled their homes.
Zelenskyy reiterated his call for a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas, which he called the sources of Russia’s “self-confidence and impunity.”
“Freedom has no time to wait,” Zelenskyy said. “If the tyranny starts its aggression against everything that keeps the peace in Europe, immediate action must be taken.”
More than six weeks after the invasion began, Russia has withdrawn its troops from the northern part of the country, around Kiev, and refocused on the Donbas region to the east. Western military analysts said an area of eastern Ukraine was under Russian control, from Kharkov – Ukraine’s second largest city – in the north to Kherson in the south.
But counter-attacks threaten Russian control over Kherson, according to Western assessments, and Ukrainian forces fend off Russian attacks elsewhere in the Donbas, a largely Russian-speaking and industrial region.
Civilians evacuated eastern Ukraine after a rocket attack on Friday that killed at least 52 people and more than 100 injured at a train station where thousands clamored to leave.
Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to get away from an imminent, stepped-up offensive by Russian forces in the east. With trains failing to leave Kramatorsk on Saturday, panicked residents boarded buses or looked for other ways to leave, fearing the sort of unrelenting attacks and occupations by Russian invaders that could spread food shortages, destroyed buildings and death to others. cities brought†
“It was terrifying. The horror, the horror,” one resident told British broadcaster Sky, recalling Friday’s attack on the train station. “Heaven forbid, to experience this again. No I do not want that.”
The Ukrainian state railway company said residents of Kramatorsk and other parts of the Donbas would be able to flee through other train stations. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 10 evacuation corridors were planned for Saturday.
Zelenskyy called the attack on the train station the latest example of war crimes committed by Russian troops and said it should motivate the West to do more to help his country defend itself.
Russia denied responsibility, accusing the Ukrainian military of shooting at the station to blame Moscow for the civilian casualties. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry has detailed the trajectory of the missile and Ukrainian troop positions to bolster the argument.
Major General Igor Konashenkov alleged that Ukrainian security forces were preparing a “cynically staged” media operation in Irpin, another town near Kiev, intended to attribute civilian casualties to Russian troops — erroneously, he said — and to stage the murder of a fake Russian intelligence team that planned to kill witnesses. The claims could not be independently verified.
Western experts and Ukrainian authorities insisted that Russia attacked the station. On the remains of the rocket, the words “For the children” were painted in Russian. The wording seemed to suggest that the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, though the exact meaning remained unclear.
Ukrainian authorities have been working to identify victims and document possible war crimes in the north. The mayor of Bucha, a town near Kiev where graphic evidence of civilian murders emerged after Russian forces withdrew, said search teams were still finding bodies of people shot at close range in yards, parks and city squares.
Workers exhumed 67 bodies in a mass grave near a church on Friday, Ukraine’s attorney general said. Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes were staged in Bucha.
Ukrainian and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian troops of committing atrocities† In all, 176 children were killed, while 324 more were injured, the prosecutor general’s office said on Saturday.
In an interview with The Associated Press In his heavily guarded presidential office complex, Zelenskyy said he is determined to negotiate a diplomatic end to the war, even as Russia has “tortured” Ukraine. He also acknowledged that peace is unlikely to come anytime soon. So far, no talks have been held with Russian President Vladimir Putin or other top officials.
“We have to fight, but fight for life. You cannot fight for dust when there is nothing and no people. That’s why it’s important to stop this war,” he said.
Ukrainian authorities have said they expect more mass killings once they reach the southern port city of Mariupol . to achieve, which is also in the Donbas and is subject to a month-long blockade and heavy fighting. The city’s location on the Sea of Azov is critical for establishing a land bridge from the Crimean peninsula, which Russia captured from Ukraine eight years ago.
As journalists who had been largely absent from the city trickled back in, new images surfaced of the devastation caused by an air raid on a theater which last month reportedly killed hundreds of civilians seeking shelter.
Ukrainian officials have pleaded almost daily with Western powers to send more weapons and further punish Moscow with sanctionsincluding the exclusion of Russian banks from the global financial system and a total EU embargo on Russian gas and oil†
During his visit on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expects more EU sanctions against Russia, but has so far defended his country’s opposition to stopping supplies of Russian gas.
A package of sanctions imposed this week “will not be the last”, the chancellor said, acknowledging that “as long as people die, any sanction is still 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 pounds ($130 million) in high-quality military equipment. Johnson also confirmed further economic support and guaranteed an additional $500 million loan from the World Bank to Ukraine, bringing Britain’s total loan guarantee to $1 billion.
In the AP interview, Zelenskyy noted the increased support, but expressed frustration when asked whether the weapons and equipment Ukraine has received from the West are enough to shift the outcome of the war.
“Not yet,” he said, to emphasize the English. “Of course it’s not enough.”
Anna reported from Bucha, Ukraine. Robert Burns in Washington, Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka in London, and Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine