Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday night that democratic countries were united in stopping the Russian invasion as civilians continued to flee eastern parts of the country ahead of an expected attack and firefighters searched for survivors in a northern town that was no longer occupied by Russian forces.
In his daily late-night video address to Ukrainians, Zelenskyy said “Russian aggression was not meant to be limited to Ukraine alone” and that “the whole European project is a target for Russia.”
Several European leaders have made efforts to show their solidarity with the battle-scarred nation. Zelenskyy thanked the British and Austrian leaders for their visits to kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, on Saturday and their pledges of additional support. He also thanked the President of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of Canada for a global fundraising event that raised more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) for Ukrainians who fled their homes.
Zelenskyy reiterated his call for a full embargo on Russian oil and gas, which he called sources of Russia’s “self-confidence and impunity”.
“Freedom has no time to wait,” Zelenskyy said. “When tyranny begins its assault on anything that keeps the peace in Europe, immediate action must be taken.”
More than six weeks after the start of the invasion, Russia withdrew its troops from the north of the country, around kyiv, and refocused on the Donbass region in the east. Western military analysts said an arc of territory in eastern Ukraine was under Russian control, from Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city – in the north to Kherson in the south.
But counterattacks threaten Russian control of Kherson, according to Western assessments, and Ukrainian forces are repelling Russian assaults elsewhere in Donbass, a largely Russian-speaking and industrial region.
Civilians were evacuating eastern Ukraine following a missile strike on Friday that killed at least 52 people and injured more than 100 at a train station where thousands were demanding to leave.
Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to get out before an imminent and reinforced offensive by Russian forces in the east. With trains not leaving Kramatorsk on Saturday, panicked locals boarded buses or sought other ways to leave, fearing the kind of relentless assaults and occupations by Russian invaders that have led to food shortages, demolished buildings and killed other towns.
“It was terrifying. Horror, horror,” a resident told British broadcaster Sky, recalling Friday’s attack on the train station. “God forbid, to go through that again. No, I do not want.
Ukraine’s state-owned railway company said residents of Kramatorsk and other parts of Donbass could flee through other stations. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 10 evacuation corridors were planned for Saturday.
Zelenskyy called the train station attack the latest example of war crimes committed by Russian forces and said it should motivate the West to do more to help his country defend itself.
Russia has denied responsibility and accused the Ukrainian military of firing at the station to blame Moscow for the civilian casualties. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman detailed the missile’s trajectory and Ukrainian troop positions to bolster the argument.
Major General Igor Konashenkov alleged that Ukrainian security services were preparing a “cynically staged” media operation in Irpin, another town near kyiv, intended to attribute civilian casualties to Russian forces – wrongly, he said. – he says – and to stage the murder of Russian fake intelligence. team that intended to kill witnesses. The claims could not be independently verified.
Western experts and Ukrainian authorities have insisted that Russia attacked the station. The remains of the rocket had the words “For Children” in Russian painted on it. The wording seemed to suggest the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, though its exact meaning remained unclear.
Ukrainian authorities have worked to identify victims and document possible war crimes in the north. The mayor of Bucha, a town near kyiv where graphic evidence of civilian killings 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 dug up 67 corpses from a mass grave near a church on Friday, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general. Russia falsely claimed that Bucha’s scenes were staged.
Ukrainian and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of committing atrocities. A total of 176 children were killed, while 324 others were injured, the attorney general’s office said on Saturday.
In an interview with The Associated Press inside his heavily guarded presidential office complex, Zelenskyy said he was determined to broker a diplomatic end to the war even though Russia had “tortured” Ukraine. He also acknowledged that peace is unlikely to come quickly. The talks so far have not included Russian President Vladimir Putin or other senior officials.
“We have to fight, but fight for life. You can’t fight for dust when there’s nothing and nobody. That is why it is important to stop this war,” he said.
Ukrainian authorities said they expected to find more mass killings once they reached the southern port city of Mariupol, which is also in Donbass and has been under a month-long blockade and intense fighting. The city’s location on the Sea of Azov is key to establishing a land bridge from the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine eight years ago.
As journalists who had been largely absent from the city began to return, new images emerged of the devastation of an airstrike on a theater last month that reportedly killed hundreds of civilians seeking refuge.
Ukrainian officials have pleaded almost daily with Western powers to send in more weapons and further punish Moscow with sanctions, including the exclusion of Russian banks from the global financial system and a full EU embargo on gas and oil. Russian oil.
During his visit on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expected more EU sanctions against Russia, but defended his country’s opposition to halting deliveries so far of Russian gas.
A set of sanctions imposed this week “will not be the last”, the Chancellor said, acknowledging that “as long as people are dying, each sanction remains insufficient”. Austria is militarily neutral and is 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 additional economic support, securing an additional $500 million World Bank loan to Ukraine, bringing Britain’s total loan guarantee to $1 billion.
In the interview with AP, Zelenskyy noted the increased support, but expressed frustration when asked if the weapons and equipment Ukraine had received from the West were enough to alter the outcome of the conflict. the war.
“Not yet,” he said, switching to English for emphasis. “Of course, that’s not enough.”
Anna reported from Bucha, Ukraine. Robert Burns in Washington, Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka in London, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine