Moscow’s actions in Ukraine will be met with such a strong international response that the Russians may end up needing humanitarian corridors themselves, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
“The Ukrainian military ensured there was a ceasefire so that humanitarian corridors would work. If the occupiers [Russia] start shooting again and disrupt the rescue of our people, in the end, they will receive such an answer from the world that they themselves will need humanitarian corridors,” Zelensky warned in a video address released on Friday.
Moscow insists, however, that it is the Ukrainians who are thwarting the evacuation of civilians from besieged cities. Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused militias of preventing people from leaving so as to use them as a human shield.
Russian negotiators have complained that Kiev imposed “absurd and unrealistic” demands during the talks to establish humanitarian corridors. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it would therefore be establishing safe routes unilaterally, due to what it said was Kiev’s lack of cooperation.
The fact that the Russian incursion into Ukraine has been ongoing for over two weeks means “there haven’t been enough sanction packages” yet, the Ukrainian leader said. “I’m expecting – we’re working on it – new restrictive decisions from our partners already today.”
During his address, Zelensky reacted to the European Council’s decision on Friday not to fast-track his country’s application to join the EU. “Something stronger was needed. This is now what we’re waiting for,” he said. Most EU citizens support its bid for membership, the president claimed, adding that “the decisions of the politicians should match the moods of the people.”
Moscow invaded its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. German- and French-brokered proposals had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.