Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed Wednesday for more resolute action enacting sanctions against Russia, as the United States and European Union prepared more punitive measures and NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss additional responses to the Russian invasion.
"When we are hearing new rhetoric about sanctions... I can't tolerate any indecisiveness after everything that Russian troops have done," Zelenskyy told Ireland’s parliament in a video address.
He reiterated his criticism of European leaders that he says are more concerned with how potential bans on Russian energy imports will affect their economies than the welfare of the Ukrainian people.
The United States is expected to announce new sanctions Wednesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying the U.S. was coordinating with the G-7 and European Union on measures that would send Russia “further down the road of economic, financial and technological isolation.”
“This will include a ban on all new investment in Russia and increased sanctions on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises in Russia and sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members,” she said.
European Council President Charles Michel said Wednesday that a new EU package would include a ban on coal imports.
“And I think that measures on oil, and even gas, will also be needed sooner or later,” he said.
In an address to the European Parliament, Michel also called on Russian soldiers to “drop your weapons, stop fighting, leave the battlefield.” He said the idea of granting asylum to Russian soldiers who desert is “a valuable idea that should be pursued.”
Ahead of the start of the two-day NATO talks in Brussels, the United States announced $100 million in military aid for Ukraine.
“The world has been shocked and appalled by the atrocities committed by Russia’s forces in Bucha and across Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement late Tuesday announcing his authorization of the aid. “Ukraine’s forces bravely continue to defend their country and their freedom, and the United States, along with our Allies and partners, stand steadfast in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the assistance would “meet an urgent Ukrainian need for additional Javelin anti-armor systems, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine and they have been using so effectively to defend their country.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that alliance members “are determined to provide further support to Ukraine,” including humanitarian and financial aid in addition to military equipment and cybersecurity assistance.
“I expect we will also decide to do more for NATO’s other partners, which are vulnerable to Russian threats and interference, including Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Stoltenberg said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is scheduled to address the ministerial on Thursday.
Britain’s defense ministry said Wednesday there was heavy fighting in the city of Mariupol in addition to Russian airstrikes on the encircled city where the humanitarian situation is “worsening.”
“Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat, or water. Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender,” the ministry said.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine would try to help trapped civilians escape through 11 different humanitarian corridors Wednesday, but that those in Mariupol would have to do so in their own vehicles.
Zelenskyy admonished the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday for its inaction in stopping Russia and called for Moscow to face accountability for crimes it has carried out there.
“We are dealing with a state that is turning the U.N. Security Council veto into the right to die,” Zelenskyy said of Russia, which has used its veto to block any action in the council. “This undermines the whole architecture of global security. It allows them to go unpunished, so, they are destroying everything they can.”
He spoke just days after Russian troops withdrew from Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, where residents and local officials reported more than 300 civilians had been killed by Russian troops during the town’s occupation. Moscow has denied any involvement and blamed Ukrainian “radicals.”
“Are you ready to close the U.N.? Do you think that the time of international law is gone?” Zelenskyy asked. “If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately. The U.N. Charter must be restored immediately.”
He said there must also be accountability for the atrocities committed against his people.
“The Russian military and those who gave them orders must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden asserted that Russian leader Vladimir Putin should face a war crimes trial.
Russia’s U.N. envoy dismissed Ukrainian claims that Russia has committed atrocities, even acknowledging the Russian military’s difficulties in advancing through the country, claiming it was to spare civilian casualties
“Today, we have heard once again a huge amount of lies about Russian soldiers and military,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council.
He said hundreds of people were ready to testify to the cruelty of Ukrainian Nazis and radicals, whom he blamed for atrocities, and read fragments of their alleged statements. He repeated the Russian defense that all accusations are part of a propaganda war against Moscow, saying “the only ones who would fall for this are Western dilettantes.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Wednesday that the “reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha are deeply disturbing,” while cautioning that any “accusations should be based on facts.”
"Before the investigation results are out, all sides should maintain restraint and avoid baseless accusations," Zhao said.
The U.N. has verified the deaths of at least 1,480 civilians, including more than 121 children, and said the real number is likely much higher. More than 10 million people have been displaced in less than six weeks of conflict. More than 4.2 million of them are now refugees.
VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin, and White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.