Volodymyr Zelenskyy painted a stark picture of the Russian assault on Ukraine in his nightly address on Sunday, directing his latest assessment beyond his country to allies in the West. “This is nothing but deliberate terror. Mortars, artillery against ordinary residential neighborhoods, against ordinary civilians, ”the Ukrainian president said. He also accused Russian troops of engaging in torture and kidnappings across the southern part of the country as Vladimir Putin‘s onslaught continues. The West, Zelenskyy pleaded, must do more. “Everyone in Europe and America already sees Russia openly using energy to destabilize Western societies,” he said. “All of this requires greater speed from Western countries in preparing a new, powerful package of sanctions.”
Zelensky’s remarks arrived as Ukrainian forces in Mariupol refused to surrender on Sunday, seven weeks into the Russian offensive on the city. At least 21,000 people have been killed in Mariupol, and of its prewar population of 450,000, less than a quarter — 100,000 people — remain in the besieged city, according to the Associated Press, citing Ukrainian estimates. The remaining Ukrainian resistance is reportedly enshrouded in a steel plant, encircled by Russian troops. Taking the city would represent a major strategic victory for Russia, providing access to the Crimean peninsula and choking off Ukrainian access to critical assets.
On Monday, Russia also hit Ukraine with a missile of missiles, including in the western city of Lviv, only about 50 miles from the Polish border. The attack on Lviv, which killed at least seven people, resulted in the first casualties in the city since the start of the war. The targeting potentially signals a new escalation by Putin.
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have signaled that surrender is off the table. In an interview with ABC’s This Week, Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine will engage in diplomacy, “but we do not intend to surrender.” The remarks thrust the extent of Ukrainian resiliency into sharp focus, even as Russian brutality has taken an increasingly heavy toll on the country.
The rising death count and reports of war crimes in Ukraine evoke Russia’s invasion of Chechnya. As The New York Times notes, soldiers, including Americans, harm civilians in many wars, but in Russia, “such acts are rarely investigated or even acknowledged, let alone punished.” Russian brutality against Ukrainian civilians has also potentially been amplified by propaganda: Six days a week, Russian conscripts are required to sit through 40-minute “informational television programs” —which, in sum, cast Ukrainians as “Nazis,” according to the Times.
“I think there is this kind of culture of violence,” Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian philosopher, told the Times, speaking of Russia. “Either you are dominating, or you are dominated.”
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