Ukraine calls for global protests 'in the name of peace' as Russian siege intensifies
Exactly a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his military invasion of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president who has garnered international recognition for his wartime leadership, called on the global community to speak out in unison against Putin's attack.
"Come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities. Come in the name of peace," Zelenskyy said in a video address that he posted on social media. "Come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to support freedom, to support life. Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard."
Zelenskyy's call for global solidarity came as U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Europe for a three-day summit with world leaders regarding the conflict.
The Ukrainian president addressed the leaders of the NATO alliance in Brussels via video link from Kyiv, calling for urgent military assistance—but stopping short of asking NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a move which would require the countries to target Russian military planes and could trigger "World War III," according to experts.
The U.S. committed earlier this month to sending $800 million in military equipment to Ukraine.
"Ukraine asked for your planes," Zelenskyy told the NATO leaders Thursday. "So that we do not lose so many people. And you have thousands of fighter jets! But we haven't been given any yet. To save people and our cities, Ukraine needs military assistance—without restrictions."
The Ukrainian leader also warned that though he understands that the U.S. has no plans to send troops to fight Russian forces and that Ukraine is not part of NATO, "Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine. Does not intend and will not. It wants to go further."
Biden will reportedly announce new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, targeting dozens of the country's defense companies, more than 300 lawmakers, and powerful figures close to Putin.
Ukraine says that at least 2,500 of its civilians have been killed by Russian forces since the invasion on February 24.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported Thursday that more than half of Ukraine's 7.5 million children have been forced from their homes since the war began—one of the largest mass displacements of children since World War II.
More than 3.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country in the past four weeks, with more than two million resettling in Poland and hundreds of thousands arriving in countries including Hungary, Moldova, and Romania. Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. plans to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this month launched an investigation into alleged "crimes against humanity" by the Russians. Putin's estimated 1,500 attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets have included a maternity hospital and nearly two dozen other healthcare facilities, 330 schools, and 900 residential buildings.
Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have made limited progress in recent weeks, and Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Zelenskyy who is leading the negotiations, said Thursday that the talks could take months but expressed confidence that Russia is negotiating in good faith.
"Twenty-eight days of war have shown that Russia is not a country that can dictate conditions," Podolyak told ABC News. "It seems to me they really do want to resolve some issues in negotiations, because there is the sanctions pressure, military pressure from Ukraine. We have already put them in their place."
NATO has reported that as many as 15,000 Russian troops have been killed and 25,000 have been injured. Ukrainian officials say at least six generals are among those who have been killed, while Russia has acknowledged the death of only one general.
"Say that people matter, freedom matters, peace matters, Ukraine matters," Zelenskyy urged people around the world Thursday. "All as one, together, who want to stop the war."
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