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Russia Ukraine conflict

Talk peace now or suffer for generations, Ukraine’s Zelenskyy tells Russia

Published: Updated:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Saturday for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow to stop its invasion of Ukraine, saying it would otherwise take Russia “several generations” to recover from its losses in the war.

Russian forces have taken heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled since President Vladimir Putin launched the assault on February 24, with long columns of troops that bore down on Kyiv halted in its suburbs.

But they have laid siege to cities, blasting urban areas to rubble, and in recent days have intensified missile attacks on scattered targets in western Ukraine, away from the main battlefields in the north and east.

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Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday they have not seen any significant shifts over the past 24 hours in front line areas, noting the cities of Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Kherson in the south and Izyum in the east continued to see the heaviest fighting.

More than 3.3 million refugees have already fled Ukraine through its western border, with around two more million displaced inside the country. Efforts to evacuate civilians from cities under siege through “humanitarian corridors” continued.

Refugees queue for the last train of the day to Poland after fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion to Ukraine, at the main train station in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 17, 2022. (Reuters)
Refugees queue for the last train of the day to Poland after fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion to Ukraine, at the main train station in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 17, 2022. (Reuters)



Ukrainian authorities said they hoped to open 10 such evacuation routes on Saturday.

“I’ll go [to Germany] for three weeks but I hope I can go home after that,” said Olga Pavlovska, a 28-year-old refugee in the Polish town of Przemysl, hoping Zelekskyy’s calls for comprehensive peace talks would bring an end to the invasion.

Zelenskyy said refusal to compromise would come at a steep price for Russia.

“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk,” he said in a video address. “The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”

Russia last acknowledged on March 2 that nearly 500 of its soldiers had been killed and has offered no updates since. Ukraine says the number by now has reached many thousands.

Reuters has not been able to independently verify the death toll.

Interfax quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying Moscow expected its operation in Ukraine to end with a signing of a comprehensive agreement on security issues, including Ukraine’s neutral status.


Learning how to fight

Western analysts say Moscow seems to have underestimated the resistance it faced in Ukraine, where civilians who may have never fired a weapon until a few weeks ago joined regular forces to defend their country.

At a training facility in Odessa, a picturesque, multicultural Black Sea port, young urban professionals were learning about handling weapons and applying first aid.

This video grab from a handout footage taken and released by the National Police of Ukraine on March 9, 2022, shows damaged buildings of a children’s hospital, destroyed cars and debris on ground following a Russian airstrike in the southeastern city of Mariupol. (AFP)
This video grab from a handout footage taken and released by the National Police of Ukraine on March 9, 2022, shows damaged buildings of a children’s hospital, destroyed cars and debris on ground following a Russian airstrike in the southeastern city of Mariupol. (AFP)



“Every person should know how to fight, how to make medicine, aid for your relatives or other people,” said 26-year-old graphic designer Olga Moroz, training alongside her 32-year-old boyfriend.

Kyiv and Moscow reported some progress in talks this week toward a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine’s security, while keeping it outside NATO, though both sides accused each other of dragging things out.

Washington is worried a potential lifeline from Beijing - which has not condemned the invasion but has said it wants to
see an end to the conflict - could blunt the impact of sanctions imposed on Russia.

But a day after US President Joe Biden warned China against giving Russia material support for its invasion, Lavrov said ties between Moscow and Beijing would only grow stronger.

“Because at a time when the West is blatantly undermining all the foundations on which the international system is based, of course we - as two great powers - need to think how to carry on in this world,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

Both Beijing and Moscow deny discussing military aid.

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