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Ukrainian president Zelensky in call for more sanctions on Russia


Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv. Photo: Reuters

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv. Photo: Reuters

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv. Photo: Reuters

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urged the European leaders visiting Kyiv yesterday to pile more sanctions on Russia, where Vladimir Putin evoked a famous World War II victory over the Nazis to rally his nation.

The west has imposed sweeping punitive measures since Russia’s nearly year-old invasion of Ukraine, which has devastated cities, killed tens of thousands of people, forced millions to flee their homes and shaken the global economy.

In the latest violence, a Russian missile destroyed apartments in Kramatorsk, killing at least three people and trapping others under rubble, police said.

Moscow said it struck US-made rocket launchers in the area about 55km northwest of Bakhmut city, currently the main focus of fighting in eastern Ukraine where Russia has been making incremental gains in recent weeks.

Speaking in Volgograd – formerly known as Stalingrad, where the Soviet army defeated Nazi forces 80 years ago – Putin predicted a new victory in Ukraine.

He lambasted Germany for helping to arm Kyiv and said he was ready to draw on Russia’s entire arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons.

“Unfortunately, we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country,” he said in a speech.

“Again and again we have to repel the aggression of the collective west. It’s incredible, but it’s a fact: we are again being threatened with German Leopard tanks with crosses on them.”

Putin casts his “special military operation” in Ukraine as a fight to “disarm” his neighbour, a fellow former Soviet republic, and defend Russia against an aggressive west. Ukraine and the west call it an illegal war to expand Russian territory.

After arriving in Kyiv by train for talks about Ukraine’s aspiration to join the European Union, the head of the bloc’s executive Commission pledged more financial, military and political aid for Ukraine.

She also announced the creation of an international centre in The Hague to prosecute crimes of aggression in Ukraine.

“This is a fight of democracies against authoritarian regimes,” Ursula von der Leyen told a joint news conference with Zelensky. “We will keep turning up the pressure further.”

The Ukrainian leader urged more sanctions, saying the pace had “slightly slowed” and Moscow was adapting to them during the biggest armed conflict in Europe since World War II.

“The faster and better this task is accomplished, the closer we will be to defeating the aggression of the Russian Federation,” he said.

Determined to make progress before Ukraine receives newly promised western battle tanks and armoured vehicles, Russia has announced advances north and south of Bakhmut.

Russian forces are pushing from both the north and south to encircle Bakhmut, using superior troop numbers to try to cut it off, Ukrainian military analyst Yevhen Dikiy said.

“The enemy is able to use its sole resource, which it has in excess – its men,” Dikiy told Espreso TV, describing the landscape to the northeast of Bakhmut as “literally covered with corpses”.

Ukraine and its allies say Moscow has taken huge losses around Bakhmut, sending in waves of poorly equipped troops, including thousands of recruits from prisons.

Ukraine has secured pledges of weapons from the West offering new capabilities – the latest expected this week to include rockets from the US that would nearly double the range of Ukrainian forces.

The new weaponry would put all of Russia’s supply lines in eastern Ukraine, as well as parts of Crimea, seized from Ukraine and annexed by Russia in 2014, within range of Ukrainian forces.

Moscow says such rockets will escalate the conflict but not change its course. It says its arms supplies will increase.

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