Ukrainian president says thousands of volunteers coming to fight for Ukraine as more peace talks are expected in Belarus.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Russian forces to leave, describing troops sent to invade his country by President Vladimir Putin as “confused children”.
Zelenskyy on Thursday called on Ukrainians to keep up the resistanceand promised the invaders would have “not one quiet moment”.
“They will have no peace here,” Zelenskyy said, calling on Russian soldiers to “go home” and describing them as “confused children who have been used.”
“Protect your Russian-speaking people and not across the world, but at your home,” he said.
Zelenskyy said Russia’s changing tactics and shelling of civilians in cities proved Ukraine was successful in resisting Moscow’s initial plan of claiming a quick victory through a land assault.
Zelenskyy said 16,000 foreigners have volunteered to fight for Ukraine. Speaking in a video address at the Ukrainian Presidential Office, he said the first of the thousands of soldiers had arrived in Ukraine and came to defend “liberty and our lives”.
“I’m sure [the effort] will be successful, ”he added.
Zelenskyy expressed skepticism of Moscow’s statement that it will send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, urging Russia instead of learning words of “reparation and contribution”.
“You will pay back the full price for everything that you did to us, to our country and to every Ukrainian,” he said.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine was receiving daily arms supplies from its international allies.
His comments came as Russia acknowledged for the first time since the start of the invasion on February 24 that nearly 500 Russian soldiers have been killed in the fighting and about 1,600 wounded.
Ukraine has not released a similar casualty figure for its armed forces.
With a column of tanks and other vehicles apparently stalled for days outside the capital city of Kyiv, fighting continued on multiple fronts across Ukraine on Thursday.
A second round of talks aimed at ending the fighting is expected later on Thursday in neighboring Belarus – though the two sides appeared to have little common ground.
Before the meeting, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that Russia will press its military action in Ukraine until achieving its goals, chiefly the “demilitarization of Ukraine”, but added it will be up to Ukrainians to choose what government they should have.
Talks are expected to be held in the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland.
Lavrov said the Russian delegation to the peace talks submitted its demands to Ukrainian negotiators earlier this week and is now waiting for Kyiv’s response at the meeting set for Thursday.
Lavrov voiced regret for civilian casualties during the Russian attack on Ukraine and insisted the Russian military is using only precision weapons against military targets.
He tacitly acknowledged some Russian strikes could have killed civilians, saying “any military action is fraught with casualties, and not just among the military but also civilians”.
The UN refugee agency said on Thursday that as of midnight in Central Europe, one million people had fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion – an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.
Lavrov on Thursday also accused Western politicians of considering nuclear war.
“I would like to point out that it’s in the heads of Western politicians that the idea of a nuclear war is spinning constantly, and not in the heads of Russians,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian and foreign media.