Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appeared in a video filmed outside his office in Kyiv, pledging to fight as Russia’s invading forces stormed towards the capital.
“I am here. We will not lay down any weapons. We will defend our state, because our weapons are our truth,” he declared in the clip that was posted on Saturday morning, urging residents not to believe in “fakes” about the surrender of the Ukrainian army.
“A lot of fake information has appeared on the internet saying that I allegedly called on our army to lay down its arms and that evacuation is under way,” he said.
Looking tired but determined, he added: “Our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children and we will protect all of this.
“This is what I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine!”
‘We must withstand’
In an earlier video, Zelenskyy had told his nation that “we must withstand tonight” as he warned of an impending Russian assault in Kyiv and other cities across the country.
“This night will be more difficult than the day. Many cities in our country are under attack. Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, our guys and girls in Donbas, the cities of southern Ukraine and especially Kyiv. We cannot lose the capital,” Zelenskyy said.
“I address our defenders. On all fronts tonight, the enemy will use all of its forces at disposal to break our resistance, dishonourably, cruelly and inhumanely. Tonight they will go on assault. We must all understand what awaits us. We must withstand tonight,” he added.
He claimed that “hundreds” of enemy soldiers had been killed in fighting, but acknowledged that Ukraine had also suffered casualties.
“Our main goal is to end this bloodbath. The enemy is suffering heavy losses – hundreds of soldiers killed who crossed our border and entered our land. Unfortunately, we are also suffering losses. Ukrainians are courageously resisting the aggression which is impossible to justify, so the occupants are forced to invent increasingly absurd accusations, to at least have something to say,” he added.
Zelenskyy also accused Russia of using multiple rocket systems against Ukrainian residential buildings, including a kindergarten.
“Grad (rockets) struck a kindergarten in Vorzel in the Kyiv region. Uragan (rockets) hit Okhtyrka in the Sumy region. Shelling hit residential neighbourhoods, shelters and kindergartens. What is this war against Ukrainian children in kindergarten? Who are they? Are they also ‘neo-Nazis?’ Or are they NATO soldiers who threatened Russia?” Zelenskyy said.
The invasion of Ukraine began early on Thursday with missile strikes on cities and military bases, followed by a multi-pronged ground assault that rolled troops in from separatist-held areas in the east; from the southern region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014; and from Belarus to the north.
Zelenskyy, who earlier called for a stronger response from the West, said he spoke to leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and United States President Joe Biden.
“We have agreed on more aid, more support, significant support for our state,” he said.
The US, Canada, Britain and the European Union announced further sanctions against Russia on Friday, including against Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
Russia said the sanctions against the pair were “a demonstration of the complete impotence of the foreign policy” of the West.
“We have reached the line after which the point of no return begins,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Moscow also vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that deplored “in the strongest terms” Russia’s invasion, while China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained.