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Ukraine leader urges Russian soldiers to lay down arms; asks for fast-track EU membership

Ukraine leader urges Russian soldiers to lay down arms; asks for fast-track EU membership

Smoke billows over the town of Vasylkiv just outside Kyiv on Feb 27, 2022, after overnight Russian strikes hit an oil depot. (Photo: AFP/Dimitar Dilkoff)

KYIV: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday (Feb 28) urged Russian soldiers to lay down their weapons and desert as Ukrainian and Russian delegations were set to hold talks on Moscow's invasion.

"Abandon your equipment. Get out of here. Don't believe your commanders. Don't believe your propagandists. Just save your lives," Zelenskyy said in a new address to Russia's forces, claiming that more than 4,500 Russian soldiers had already lost their lives during the Kremlin's assault.

He also asked the European Union to allow Ukraine to gain membership under a special procedure immediately as it defends itself from invasion by Russian forces.

"Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal. I'm sure that's fair. I am sure we deserve it," he said.

At least 102 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since Russia launched its invasion last Thursday, with a further 304 injured, but the real figure is feared to be "considerably higher", UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.

Bachelet, addressing the opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said: "Most of these civilians were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and air strikes. The real figures are, I fear, considerably higher."

About 422,000 Ukrainians have fled their homeland, with many more displaced within the country, she told the Geneva forum which earlier agreed to hold an urgent debate on Ukraine later this week.

A Ukrainian delegation has arrived at the border with Belarus for talks on Monday with Russian representatives that will focus on achieving an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces, the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement.

The delegation includes Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak among others, it said.

Russia invaded on Thursday and quickly announced it had neutralised key military facilities, but fierce fighting has since raged and Ukraine forces are reporting some success.

President Vladimir Putin on Sunday ordered Russia's nuclear forces onto high alert in response to what he called "unfriendly" steps by the West. Russia has the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles.

EU member states closed their airspace to Russian planes and many pledged arms for Ukraine - but stressed they would not themselves intervene militarily.

Source: Agencies/aj


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