Delegations from Ukraine and Russia met on Monday near the Ukraine-Belarus border. The meeting came as Ukrainian forces have slowed Russian advances while defending their capital and other cities.
The meeting came a day after Russia put its nuclear forces on alert.
Ukraine demanded an “immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Russian troops.”
In the capital city of Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used social media to urge Ukrainians to defend their country. He said Russia wants to destroy Ukraine by targeting him and his family. Ukrainian officials said that when the United States offered to evacuate Zelenskyy from Kyiv, he answered, "The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride."
Zelenskyy said 16 Ukrainian children have been killed and another 45 have been injured in the Russian invasion. He also said in a video message Monday that over 4,500 Russian troops have been killed. He called on Russian soldiers to lay down their guns and leave. Those numbers could not be confirmed by independent sources. Zelenskyy said that Western sanctions have weakened the Russian currency, the ruble. He asked the European Union for immediate membership in the group.
On Monday, explosions and gunfire in Kyiv appeared to quiet down. The Associated Press reported that long lines formed outside food stores as locals were permitted to leave bomb shelters and their homes for the first time since Saturday.
From Moscow, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin did not comment on the progress of Russian troops. The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday, “I don’t think this is the time to sum up the results of the [military] operation, we need to wait for completion of the operation.”
Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC that Putin’s order to put its nuclear forces on alert was an effort to take away attention from the troubles his invasion is facing. Wallace said, “He’s put it out there and we’re all talking about it, rather than the lack of success they’re currently having in Ukraine.” British intelligence noted that most of the Russian forces were still 30 kilometers to the north of Kyiv.
Fighting also took place in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. Ukraine military said Russian forces fired on neighborhoods on Monday, killing more than 20 people and wounding hundreds more.
The United Nations refugee agency reported Monday that millions of Ukrainians are now homeless and more than 500,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
About 250,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland. The country’s border guard has also reported that more than 22,000 Ukrainians have crossed into Ukraine from Poland since the start of the invasion. At a border checkpoint in southeastern Poland, one man told the AP, “We have to defend our homeland. Who else if not us?” Another Ukrainian man added, “The Russians should be afraid. We are not afraid.”
Worldwide pressure against Russia
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke with the Ukrainian president by phone. He said he "commended him for the bravery of the people and armed forces of Ukraine."
"NATO allies are stepping up support with air-defense missiles, anti-tank weapons, as well as humanitarian and financial aid," Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
Over the weekend, the European Union closed its airspace to Russian airlines. The E.U. agreed to provide Ukraine with weapons and other supplies worth over $500 million.
Around the world, the United States and allies joined the E.U. to freeze Russian assets and ban Russia from the SWIFT international banking system. Without SWIFT, Russian banks cannot send and receive payment orders. The country receives as much as 40 percent of its money from oil and gas payments.
The effect was immediate. On Monday, Russia’s currency, the ruble, dropped 30 percent against the American dollar. The drop came just after another major drop in value last week. As long lines of Russian pulled money out of banks, Russian officials raised the interest rate. They also closed the Moscow stock exchange.
The pressure expands to other areas, including culture and sports.
The International Olympic Committee on Monday urged international sports organizations to exclude Russia from events, including soccer’s World Cup. The IOC said the move was needed to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
The head of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera said the organization would not work with Russian artists or organizations that support Putin until the country's invasion of Ukraine ends.
The United Nations General Assembly opened a rare emergency special session Monday with appeals for peace in Ukraine. The last U.N. emergency session took place in 1997, when Israel built housing in the occupied territory of East Jerusalem.
I’m Ashley Thompson. And I'm John Russell.
Hai Do wrote this for Learning English based on reporting from VOA News, The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
evacuate - v. to remove someone from a dangerous place
ammunition - n. bullets for weapons
sanction - n. action taken to force a country to follow international law
sum up - v. to tell important information again in a few words
asset - n. something that is owned by a person, organization or country
integrity - n. the quality of being honest or fair
global - adj. involving the entire world
participant - n. a person who is involved in an activity or event