Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attacked the Kremlin after Russian missiles killed eight civilians in the port city of Odessa, while the top US diplomat was preparing to visit Ukraine for the first time since the full-scale invasion of Moscow eight weeks ago.
In fierce comments, Zelensky called the Russians “bloody bastards”, “Nazis” and “racists” – a Ukrainian neologism that mixes “Russians” and “fascists” – while pressuring allies to increase arms and ammunition supplies in an attempt to reverse the war. benefit of Ukraine.
Russia has launched new offensives in eastern and southern Ukraine, which the country’s allies predict will bring some of the fiercest fighting to date. This week Moscow clarified that it wanted to occupy not only the eastern part of Ukraine, Donbass, but also its entire south, extending Russian control along the Black Sea coast to the border with Moldova.
The Ukrainian president said that he still supports the diplomatic path to end the war, but he sounded angry at the press conference that was held deep underground in the main metro station Maidan for security reasons.
“Eight people were killed and 18 to 20 were injured,” Zelenski said, referring to Saturday’s rocket attack. One of the projectiles hit a multi-storey residential building. “A three-month-old baby died. . . The war started when this child was a month old. . . Try to figure it out. Damn bastards – I have no other words. ”
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that his rocket attack was aimed at a logistics hub in Odessa that contained foreign weapons. Russian and Ukrainian claims of war could not be independently confirmed.
Zelensky spoke ahead of what he said was visits by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kiev. The Pentagon and the State Department declined to comment.
The United States has significantly expanded the range of heavy weapons it supplies to Ukraine, and Zelensky said he intends to “hold this conversation and talk about the weapons we need.”
“I want the war to stop,” Zelenski said when asked about the prospects for reviving peace talks with Russia. “There is a diplomatic path and there is a military path [and] Everyone in their right mind would always choose a diplomatic path. ”
However, he said, Ukraine “will not continue negotiations” if people come Mariupol – where the last Ukrainian troops are kept with civilians in a network of tunnels under the Azovstal steel plant – killed, or if Russian authorities in the occupied southern region of Kherson organize a separatist referendum.
Zelensky also spoke openly about human rights violations alleged by Ukrainian officials to have been committed by Russian troops, including the killing, torture and rape of civilians. This week satellite photos he seems to have confirmed the claims of Mariupol city officials that mass graves are being dug.
“They are Nazis,” Zelenski said. “Rashists [Rashists]. The word is new, but the actions are the same as 80 years ago in Europe. “
Zelensky also said that about half a million people, including at least 5,000 children, were deported from various parts of Ukraine under Russian occupation to Russian territory and two separatist states under Russian control in eastern Ukraine. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation in February alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since the beginning of the war.
The remarks also reflected Ukraine’s growing frustration with the intensification of the Russian attack and its need to communicate with Moscow on humanitarian issues, including the evacuation of civilians from besieged areas.
Zelenski said that Ukraine is ready to offer a “humanitarian solution” for the exchange of civilians from Mariupol for the wounded Russians. “We are also ready to exchange our troops defending Mariupol, and we have offered that,” he said.
The Azov Battalion, a right-wing nationalist paramilitary group whose fighters were among troops defending Mariupol, released a video Saturday that was apparently filmed in underground shelters there. It shows uniformed people greeting small children and civilians who said that people have been living underground for a month and a half and that they are running out of food and water.
Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova from Warsaw and Felicia Schwartz from New York