Ukrainian leader releases convicts with combat skills to fight Russia | Russian-Ukrainian crisis

Zelenskyy calls on Russian soldiers to lay down their arms, saying Ukraine has killed more than 4,500 enemy soldiers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has authorized the release of convicts with combat experience to help fight the Russian invaders.

Speaking in a new video address posted on the fifth day of the full-scale war with Russia, Zelenskyy said on Monday that the decision was “not easy from a moral point of view”, but was justified by the defending his war-torn country. point of view.

He also called on Russian soldiers to lay down their arms, saying more than 4,500 enemy soldiers had already been killed by Ukraine.

“Abandon your equipment. Get out of here. Don’t believe your commanders. Don’t believe your propagandists. Just save your lives,” Zelenskyy said.

The 44-year-old leader also urged the European Union to grant his country “immediate” membership “via a new special procedure”.

“Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, above all, to be on an equal footing. I’m sure it’s right. I’m sure it’s possible,” he said .

Zelenskyy makes a statement in Kyiv [File: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/handout via Reuters]

He once again thanked the West for its support, saying, “The support for our anti-war coalition is unconditional and unprecedented.”

“Each of us is a warrior,” Zelenskyy said. “And I’m sure each of us will win.”

Ukrainian forces, supported by Western weapons, succeeded in slowing the advance of the Russian army.

Zelenskyy said 16 children died in the first four days of the assault on Moscow and another 45 were injured as he saluted “Ukrainian heroes”.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, said on Monday that at least 102 civilians, including seven children, had been killed, but warned the true numbers were likely much higher.

“Ukrainians have shown the world who we are. And Russia showed what it has become,” Zelenskyy said.

Peace talks

The Ukrainian leader – a former comedian who came to power in 2019 – released his final video statement before Russian and Ukrainian negotiators sat down for their first face-to-face talks since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invaded last Thursday.

Zelenskyy’s office said Kyiv’s goal for Monday’s talks was an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said Moscow ‘has given no indication or indication’ that it intends to back down from its main demands before the Russian-Ukrainian talks.

“These demands include Ukraine’s neutrality, guarantees that it will never join NATO and that Kyiv recognizes the declared independence of the country’s eastern breakaway regions,” Hull said, quoting the self-declared People’s Republic. from Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk. People’s Republic (RPL).

“And you can probably include in this recognition that Crimea is officially part of Russia after its annexation [by Moscow] in 2014 ; most of the world and certainly Ukraine do not recognize it,” he added.

“Suffering Great Losses”

Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russian expert and researcher at Germany’s University of Bremen, told Al Jazeera that the Russian offensive has “virtually stalled on all fronts”.

“A great morning assault on [the eastern city of] Kharkiv was repelled and an attempt to enter Kiev from the [town of] Irpen [to the west] was arrested,” Mitrokhin said.

“Russia’s strategic position… is rapidly deteriorating. The Russian army is suffering heavy losses,” he added.

Mitrokhin identified three possible angles from which Moscow’s forces could, however, refocus their efforts and attack – on Kiev from the north, on the southern port city of Odessa and on the eastern city of Poltava.