Ukraine’s leader urges civilians to fight, promises to arm all

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the government will issue weapons to every citizen who wants to defend Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on all citizens who are ready to defend the country from Russian forces to come forward, saying Kyiv will issue weapons to everyone who wants them.

Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II, confirming the worst fears of the West.

Zelenskyy also urged Russians to come out and protest against the war.

“To everyone in the Russian Federation who has not lost their conscience, it’s time to come out with protests against the war with Ukraine,” he said.

Putin poster saying "we are with him"
A placard in Moscow featuring an image of Putin and reading: ‘We are with him for the sovereignty of Russia! And you?’ [Kirill Kudryantsev/AFP]

He also urged global leaders to provide defence assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from Russian aggression.

“I talked to [US President Joe] Biden, [UK Prime Minister] Johnson, [President of the European Council] Charles Michel, [Polish President Andrzej] Duda, [Lithuanian President Gitanas] Nauseda,” he said.

“We started putting together an anti-Putin coalition. I have already urged global leaders to slam Putin with all possible sanctions, offer large-scale defence support and close the airspace over Ukraine for the aggressor. Together we must save Ukraine, save the democratic world, and we will do it.”

A man mourns near a body
A man mourns near a body as a Russian air attack damages an apartment complex outside Kharkiv [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Meanwhile, an adviser to Zelenskyy said about 40 people have been killed so far in Russia’s invasion.

Oleksii Arestovich also said that several dozen people have been wounded. He did not specify whether the casualties included civilians.

‘Genocide’ attempt

Donnacha Ó Beacháin, a professor of post-Soviet politics at Dublin City University and author of an upcoming book, The Domestic Politics of Post-Soviet Unrecognised States, told Al Jazeera from Ireland’s capital Dublin that Putin’s justifications for going to war in Ukraine were “remarkable”.

“He’s blamed NATO, he calls the Ukrainian government, which is democratically elected, a junta, he says he’s on the hunt now for neo-Nazis, his speech contained all sorts of historical falsehoods,” he said.

“We are seeing a destruction of a state in the 21st century in central Europe … Putin made it clear that he doesn’t recognise a separate Ukrainian people. He doesn’t recognise that there is Ukraine … This is an attempt to destroy a people, literally a genocide.”

A person holds signs during a protest at Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
A person holds signs during a protest at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin [Michele Tantussi/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies