KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people around the world to come together publicly on Thursday to show support for his beleaguered country as US President Joe Biden and other world leaders met for talks aimed at pressuring Russia to stop the invasion it’s the second month.
“Come out to your squares, to your streets. Make yourself visible and be heard, Mr. Zelensky said in English Wednesday night in a moving video message that was recorded in the dark outside the president’s office in Kyiv. Say people are important. Freedom matters. The world matters. Ukraine matters.”
Brussels was at the center of a flurry of diplomatic activity on Thursday. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened the emergency summit, which brought together Mr. Biden and other leaders, warning that the Alliance was determined to continue increasing the cost of its aggression to Russia.
Russia launched its invasion on February 24 in what was the largest offensive in Europe since World War II, but instead of quickly overthrowing the Ukrainian government, its forces were mired in a stifling military campaign and their economies reeled from punitive international sanctions.
“It’s been a month already,” Zelenskiy said Thursday in an address to the Swedish parliament, the latest in a long string of calls for help from the Ukrainian leader. We haven’t seen destruction on this scale since World War II.”
Western analysts say after a month of fighting, Ukrainian forces need to replenish their stockpiles of weapons that have helped them slow down and fend off Russia’s advance. Both sides said on Thursday they had caused more damage. The Ukrainian Navy said it sank a ship that was used to supply the Russian countryside with armored vehicles. Russia said it had taken the city of Izyum in eastern Ukraine after fierce fighting.
But in many areas, Ukrainian forces appeared to be able to disable Russian troops, which seemed unlikely when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion.
Western countries, determined to make Mr. Putin pay and under intense pressure from Mr. Zelenskiy to do more, have said Ukraine is receiving more aid.
EU countries have signed additional military assistance in the amount of 500 million euros. And Mr. Biden was supposed to discuss with NATO members new sanctions against Russia, as well as additional military assistance to Ukraine. He will also meet with the leaders of the industrialized nations of the G7 and the European Council in a series of meetings on Thursday.
Sending a signal that the sanctions have not brought it to its knees, Russia reopened its stock market on Thursday but allowed only limited trading. The reduction restrictions on shares, including those of energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft, were intended to prevent a repeat of the February 24 sell-off. Foreigners are not allowed to sell and traders cannot sell short. The MOEX index added 9% in the first few minutes of trading.
In Ukraine, Russian troops are bombing targets from afar, revisiting the tactics they used to reduce cities to rubble in Syria and Chechnya.
“Look what the Russian army has done to our country,” Zelenskiy said in a speech to Swedish lawmakers. A month of attacks like the ones we saw in Syria.”
It remains unclear exactly how many troops Russia has lost in pursuit of Mr. Putin’s goals. Russia has not provided an update since March 2, when it acknowledged nearly 500 soldiers killed and nearly 1,600 wounded. NATO estimates, however, that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian troops were killed, the latter figure roughly equaling what Russia has lost in a decade of fighting in Afghanistan.
Ukraine also claims to have killed six Russian generals. Russia recognizes only one.
Ukraine has released little information about its own military casualties, and the West has given no assessment. Zelenskiy said almost two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed.
Having failed to eliminate the Ukrainian government with a lightning strike in the first month, there are fears that the Kremlin may turn to other more destructive weapons in its arsenal in the future.
In a worrying sign that Moscow might consider using nuclear weapons, a senior Russian official, Dmitry Rogozin, said the country’s nuclear forces would help deter the West from invading Ukraine.
“The Russian Federation is capable of physically destroying any aggressor or group of aggressors in a matter of minutes at any distance,” said Rogozin, who heads the state-owned aerospace company Roskosmos and oversees the construction of missile facilities. In his televised address, he noted that Moscow’s nuclear arsenal includes tactical nuclear weapons designed for use on the battlefield, as well as much more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
US officials have long warned that Russian military doctrine is considering “escalation for the sake of de-escalation,” using nuclear weapons on the battlefield to force the enemy to retreat when Russian forces face imminent defeat. Moscow denies any such plans.
Mr. Rogozin, known for his bluster, did not specify what Western actions would be considered meddling, but his comments almost certainly reflect thinking within the Kremlin.
For civilians, the suffering is unending.
To the south, the besieged port city of Mariupol has experienced the worst of the war, having endured weeks of artillery fire and now street fighting. But Ukrainian forces prevented its fall, thwarting Moscow’s apparent attempt to fully secure the land bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Zelenskiy said there were 100,000 civilians left in the city, which had a pre-war population of 430,000. Efforts to provide desperately needed food and other supplies to those trapped have often failed.
In the besieged northern city of Chernihiv, Russian troops shelled and destroyed a bridge used to deliver aid and evacuate civilians, regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus said.