Russian strategy of blockading Ukrainian cities will fail – Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces were blockading his country’s biggest cities to subjugate the population, but he warned the strategy would fail and Moscow would lose in the long run if it did not end its war.

Mr Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of deliberately creating ‘a humanitarian catastrophe’ and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him, using a huge rally at a Moscow stadium where Mr Putin praised Russian forces on Friday to illustrate what was at stake.

“Imagine that in this stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 corpses and tens of thousands more wounded and mutilated. These are the Russian costs throughout the invasion,” Zelenskyy said in a statement. Nightly video address to the nation recorded outside the presidential office in Kyiv.

(PA graphics)

The rally and a concert in Moscow were held to commemorate the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The event included patriotic songs such as “Made In The USSR”, with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, this is my whole country”.

“We haven’t had such unity for a long time,” Putin told the cheering crowd.

The rally came as Russia faced heavier-than-expected battlefield casualties and an increasingly authoritarian regime at home.

Russian police have arrested thousands of people during protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Fighting continued on several fronts in Ukraine. In the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, the site of some of the war’s greatest suffering, Ukrainian and Russian forces fought over the Azovstal steelworks, one of the largest in Europe, Vadym Denysenko said , adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior.

Day of Russia's war in Ukraine in photos
A policeman walks past the site of a bomb attack that damaged residential buildings in Kyiv (Felipe Dana/AP)

“I can say that we have lost this economic giant,” Denysenko said in televised remarks. “In fact, one of the biggest metallurgical plants in Europe is being destroyed.”

Ukrainian and Russian officials have agreed to establish 10 humanitarian corridors to deliver aid and residents – one from the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Lugansk region, the deputy said on Saturday. – Ukrainian Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

She also announced her intention to provide humanitarian aid to the city of Kherson, which is under the control of Russian forces.

In his nightly video address, Mr Zelensky said Russian forces were blockading major cities in an attempt to create conditions so miserable that Ukrainians would cooperate.

He said the Russians were preventing supplies from reaching surrounded towns in central and southeastern Ukraine.

Anniversary of Russian reunification in Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a celebration in Moscow (Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik Pool Photo via AP)

He said Friday’s rally in Moscow to celebrate Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 had gathered around 200,000 people, the same number of Russian servicemen involved in the current invasion of Ukraine.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, the costs from Russia will be so high that you will not be able to recover for several generations,” Zelenskyy said.

Ms Putin’s appearance at Friday’s rally marked a change from his relative isolation of recent weeks, when he was shown meeting with leaders and his staff either at extraordinarily long tables or via video conference.

Seeking to portray war as just, Putin paraphrased the Bible to say of Russian troops: “There is no greater love than to lay down your soul for your friends.

Taking the scene where a sign read ‘For a world without Nazism’, he railed against his enemies in Ukraine with a baseless claim that they were ‘neo-Nazis’ and insisted his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide” – an idea outright rejected by world leaders.

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