The UN says nearly 1.4 million children have now fled Ukraine since the conflict began — nearly one per second
Ukraine’s leader on Wednesday issued an emotive appeal to US lawmakers for greater Western intervention against Russia, which insisted its invasion was going “successfully” despite the West rallying to Kyiv’s side via arms and sanctions.
In a landmark virtual address to Congress, President Volodymyr Zelensky invoked Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attacks and Martin Luther King Jr as he showed a video of the destruction inflicted on his cities by three weeks of Russian attacks.
Switching to English, Zelensky addressed US President Joe Biden in saying: “I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, also reached back to history as he denounced the West’s “pogroms” against Russia and its sanctions “blitzkrieg”, which he said had failed.
“And we will not allow Ukraine to serve as a springboard for aggressive actions against Russia,” he added.
Indirectly, Biden and other NATO leaders have been stepping up military support for Ukraine including anti-tank weapons that have helped to stall Russian forces north of Kyiv.
– No surrender –
Some 20,000 residents have been allowed to leave Mariupol. But exhausted, shivering evacuees speak of harrowing escape journeys and rotting corpses littering the streets.
The hack was “the latest childish provocation” from Moscow, he said, claiming the invasion had killed 103 Ukrainian children.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was in Ukraine to investigate Russian atrocities, the president added.
The conflict has already sent more than three million Ukrainians fleeing across the border, and a peaceful resolution still seems beyond reach.
Ukraine and Russia continued stop-start peace talks, after Zelensky conceded that NATO membership was not on the table, in an apparent concession to Moscow.
But Zelensky’s office gave the idea short shrift.
– ‘Enormous suffering’ –
He noted the “enormous suffering by the civilian population” in Ukraine and stressed it was “utterly important” for the ICRC’s neutral humanitarian work to be recognised on the ground.
Moscow was due Wednesday to pay $117 million on two dollar-denominated bonds — the first interest payment that has fallen due since it was largely shut out of the Western financial system.
Isolated internationally, Putin has turned to Chechnya and Syria to replenish his invasion force — and to China for economic support.
“We urge the US not to damage China’s legitimate rights and interests in any form. If the US continues down this path, China will certainly take strong counter-measures,” he added.