Western nations more concerned about their economies than civilian deaths in Ukraine, says Zelensky

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said western countries are more concerned with the economic impact of rising energy prices than with the deaths of innocent Ukrainians as he denounced the latest wave of sanctions against Russia.

In a nightly address, Ukraine’s leader asked the international community for increased military support, saying new US and EU sanctions are “not enough” to deter Russian aggression.

As US president Joe Biden vowed to “rachet up the pain” on those close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, his Ukrainian counterpart said the west’s new sanctions against the Kremlin have a “spectacular look” but are inadequate.

Washington is bringing “full blocking sanctions” against Sberbank, the largest Russian private bank, and has also targeted Mr Putin’s children, while the EU is set to ban purchases of Russian coal.

Describing the economic measures as incommensurate with the “evil” meted out on Ukrainian civilians by Russian soldiers, Mr Zelensky pressed for a full embargo on Russian oil and gas.

"Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of petrodollars and oil euros to Russia so as not to put their own economies at risk," he said.

“The only question is how many more Ukrainian men, how many more Ukrainian women, the Russian military will have time to kill in order for you, certain politicians - and we know who you are - to find some determination.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office)
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office)

Mr Zelensky added that the existing sanctions, which he deems insufficient, will be seen as a green light by the Kremlin. They give the Russian command “permission to attack”, he argued.

The Ukrainian prime minister Oleksiy Honcharuk echoed this sentiment, saying western sanctions were “too little too late”. They would not work against Mr Putin, whom he compared to Adolf Hitler.

“Western leaders are scared. It’s a pity but the fact [is] it’s too little too late, because the goal of the sanctions is to stop Putin. And these sanctions will not stop [him],” he said.

With fears growing about a heightened Russian assault on the eastern Donbas region, Nato leaders met in Brussels on Thursday for a second day of talks on the Ukraine war.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba joined them in Belgium, laying out clear demands from Kyiv.

“I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons. Ukraine‘s urgent needs, the sustainability of supplies, and long-term solutions which will help Ukraine to prevail,” he said.

His demands come as more evidence was reportedly uncovered about alleged Russian war crimes in the town of Bucha, northwest of the capital.

A shelled building in the town of Borodyanka (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
A shelled building in the town of Borodyanka (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that Berlin’s intelligence agency had intercepted Russian military radio messages which appear to discuss the killing of civilians.

Ukraine has claimed Russian troops murdered more than 300 civilians - some of whom had their hands tied behind their backs - in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb which was occupied by the Kremlin’s forces until last week.

The radio recordings reportedly correspond with the known deaths in the town. In one intercept, a Russian soldier described shooting a resident off their bicycle.

Earlier this week, Moscow called western allegations of Russian war crimes in Bucha as a “monstrous forgery”, saying corpses were planted to discredit its army. However, satellite imagery seemed to corroborate Ukraine’s claim, showing bodies lying in one of Bucha’s streets during Russia’s occupation of the suburb.

A map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as of 5 April (Press Association Images)
A map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as of 5 April (Press Association Images)

Civilian deaths in the long-besieged city of Mariupol are thought to be even higher, with its mayor saying that 5,000 people had been killed so far, including 210 children. British defence officials said 160,000 residents remain trapped there, desperate for food and water.

Moscow is assumed to be regrouping for a large near offensive around Mariupol in eastern and southern Ukraine.

As a result, Ukrainian officials in areas likely to be affected by increased hostilities have urged residents to flee while they still can.

"Evacuate! The chances of saving yourself and your family from Russian death are dwindling every day," Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said.