Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday issued a dire appeal for help as Russia’s attacks across the country intensified.
“The end of the world has arrived,” Zelensky said during a televised news conference in Kyiv.
He appealed to Western leaders who have resisted calls to set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian leader also called for direct negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Good Lord, what do you want? Leave our land. If you don’t want to leave now, sit down with me at the negotiating table. But not from 30 meters away, like with [French President Emmanuel] Macron and [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz,” Zelensky said, according to a translation from journalist Max Seddon, the Financial Times’ Moscow bureau chief. The “30 meters” line appears to be a reference to the lengthy table Putin uses for meetings with foreign leaders and his own advisers.
“Sit down with me and talk. What are you afraid of? We’re no threat to anyone,” Zelensky added.
His comments came one week after Putin ordered a military invasion of Ukraine. Russia has since stepped up its assault on key cities after an attempt by its forces to encircle the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, appeared to stall.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Russian troops had seized Kherson, capturing their first major Ukrainian city since the start of the invasion. Zelensky’s office denied the report, saying the battle for the port city was ongoing.
Battles continue to rage in other Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv, the two largest population centers, as outnumbered Ukrainian troops mount a ferocious response that has been aided by ordinary citizens wielding Molotov cocktails.
Ukrainian and Russian delegations were expected to meet Thursday for a second round of talks in Belarus, but there appeared to be no end to the invasion in sight.
Zelensky vowed to continue defending the nation while pleading with NATO countries to help.
“If we are no more, then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next,” he said.