President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged NATO to provide Ukraine with unrestricted military aid as Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have launched a series of extraordinary summits in Brussels to map out next steps in efforts to prevent Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Live briefing: Russia invades Ukraine
RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the major developments on the invasion of Russia, how kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians and the Western reaction. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.
“To save people and our cities, Ukraine needs unrestricted military assistance. The same way Russia uses its full arsenal without restrictions against us,” Zelenskiy said. Recount NATO leaders via video link as heavy fighting continues in the besieged city of Mariupol and other flashpoints across the country.
“The alliance can still prevent the death of Ukrainians because of Russian strikes, Russian occupation, by giving us all the weapons we need,” Zelenskiy added in the video address.
While Zelenskiy suggested that the alliance could supply Ukraine with equipment such as anti-missile weapons, tanks and even jets, his speech was perhaps most notable for what it did. not asked: the application of a no-fly zone to deny air from Russia. superiority and membership in NATO.
Previously, the Ukrainian leader had made several impassioned calls for NATO to create and enforce a no-fly zone over the country, a request which was flatly rejected because the United States and other allies say that he will escalate the conflict by bringing in NATO forces. direct engagement with the Russian army.
Instead, Zelenskiy said his demand for weapons and other military equipment from NATO members would give Ukraine “just like you, 100% security.”
“I am sure you already understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine. It does not think and will not. It wants to go further, against the eastern members of NATO. The Baltic States, Poland, for sure,” he added. noted.
Zelenskiy added that NATO has yet to show what it can do to save people, “to show that it is indeed the strongest defense alliance in the world.”
Biden, who is attending a European Union summit as well as a gathering of Group of Seven industrialized states, used the opportunity to impose sanctions on more than 400 Russian politicians, oligarchs and businesses over the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Moscow.
The US Treasury said in a statement that the expanded list of those sanctioned includes dozens of Russian defense companies, 328 members of Russia’s State Duma and the head of Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank.
Sberbank CEO German Gref has been a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin since the 1990s.
Britain also announced that it was adding 59 Russian individuals and entities to its sanctions list, effectively freezing their assets and barring those on the list from coming to the country. Companies now on the list include Gazprombank, Alfa Bank and shipping company Sovcomflot.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said EU countries must step up their sanctions against Russia and prepare to end their dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
“This is the best time to start reducing dependence on Russia’s energy resources. This is the best day to punish this country for this terrible military aggression,” Nauseda said after arriving at the EU summit.
In a separate video message late March 23, Zelenskiy called on the world’s democracies to unite in the face of Russia’s “crude and cruel” force, blaming the invaders for atrocities against civilians and warning the West that the freedom must take precedence over economic interests.
“At these three summits, we will see who is a friend, who is a partner and who betrayed us for money. Life can only be defended when united,” he said.
Russian ground forces slowed down or stopped in their tracks by Ukrainian troops armed by the West resort to indiscriminate bombardment from a distance on military and civilian targets.
Zelenskiy told the G7 summit that the threat of Russia’s large-scale use of chemical weapons in Ukraine is “real” and accused Russia of having previously used phosphorus bombs against civilians.
Speaking ahead of the alliance summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a “big mistake” with his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Stoltenberg also said that any use of chemical weapons would “fundamentally change” the nature of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as it would be a “flagrant” violation of international law that will have “widespread and serious consequences”.
He said leaders at the meeting will discuss “the need for a reset in our longer-term deterrence and defense.”
WATCH: Drone video has revealed widespread devastation in the beleaguered Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. Images posted to social media on March 22 showed the smoldering ruins of damaged residential buildings that were hit by Russian shelling.
NATO has already announced that it will double the number of its deployments in Europe by adding four more. The new installments will be located in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, said on March 24 that Russia was blocking talks on a ceasefire in Ukraine and would not take talks seriously until it reached her goals.
A senior US defense official said on March 23 that Moscow’s ground forces appeared to be establishing defensive positions 15 to 20 kilometers from kyiv, as they had made little or no progress toward the city center.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that in some areas east of kyiv, Ukrainian troops appear to have pushed the Russians further back.
The official added that there was Russian ship activity in the Sea of Azov, where the beleaguered strategic port of Mariupol is located.
The Ukrainian Navy said on March 24 that it struck a Russian naval transport ship moored in the Sea of Azov near Mariupol.
“The large landing ship Orsk of the occupiers’ Black Sea Fleet was destroyed in the port of Berdyansk captured by Russia,” the Ukrainian Navy wrote on social media.
Plumes of black smoke could be seen billowing from a large gray vessel moored next to large cranes in amateur footage of what the Ukrainian Navy said was the strike on the vessel.
There was no immediate response to the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim and the strikes could not be independently confirmed.
In one maintenance with the Spanish TVE broadcast on March 24, Borrell said that Putin intended to circle the Black Sea coast to the border with Moldova in order to isolate Ukraine from water.
“At the moment, Russia does not want to sit down and negotiate anything. What it wants is to occupy the ground,” Borrell said. “He only wants to negotiate seriously when he has secured a position of strength.”
Biden is due to give a press conference after the March 24 meetings and then travel to Poland for talks with leaders in that country, which has taken in the bulk of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the fighting.
The month of pitched battles across Ukraine has pushed nearly 4 million civilians out of the country and left tens of thousands stranded in cities without public services and food supplies, creating what the Red Cross has called of “apocalyptic” conditions.
The March 24 UN General Assembly overwhelmingly called for access to aid and protection for civilians in Ukraine and criticized Russia for creating a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.
The resolution, drafted by Ukraine and its allies, received 140 votes in favor and five against – from Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Belarus – and 38 abstentions.
Despite sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Moscow, the Red Cross said the situation was becoming dire in parts of Ukraine.
Mariupol, which had a population of 400,000 before the war, was reduced to rubble, with thousands of civilians dead and many more seeking a way out of the city to safety.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, was in Moscow on March 24. Maurer said he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the need to protect civilians during Moscow’s operations in Ukraine.
“We certainly also discussed international humanitarian law and the provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding the conduct of hostilities…that civilians must be protected,” Maurer said at a joint press conference with Lavrov.
Moscow has not provided an update on casualty figures since the start of the invasion, when it said on March 2 that 498 soldiers had been killed. However, a NATO official told AP that the Russian death toll is likely to be between 7,000 and 14,000, although figures from both sides are impossible to confirm independently.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a tweet on March 23 that more than 15,000 Russian soldiers had died in the fighting.