Growing increasingly frustrated with what he perceives as a lack of Western action, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused his allies of sharing responsibility for casualties.
“While Russians are to blame for the killings, responsibility is shared by those who for 13 days in their Western offices haven’t been able to approve an obviously necessary decision, who didn’t save our cities from these bombs and missiles – although they can,” The Kyiv Independent newspaper quoted Zelenskyy as saying Tuesday.
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⚡️Zelensky: "While Russians are to blame for the killings, responsibility is shared by those who for 13 days in their Western offices haven’t been able to approve an obviously necessary decision, who didn’t save our cities from these bombs and missiles – although they can."
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 8, 2022
Moscow has called the campaign it launched on February 24 a “special military operation”, saying it has no plans to occupy Ukraine, which was once part of the Soviet Union under Moscow’s sway but which has now turned to the West and is seeking NATO and European Union membership.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for Western powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent more Russian attacks.
“We repeat every day: close the sky over Ukraine. Close for all Russian missiles, for Russian combat aircraft, for all their terrorists,” Zelenskyy said on Sunday.
“If you don’t, if you don’t give us at least planes so we can protect ourselves, there’s only one thing to conclude: you want us to be killed very slowly.”
Ukraine’s air force fleet consists of ageing Soviet-era MiG-29 and Sukhoi-27 jets, used for aerial combat or supporting ground troops, and heavier Sukhoi-25 jets to take out ground targets, according to the Military Balance assessment by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
These are the only planes Ukrainian pilots could fly immediately without additional training – no NATO or other European ally shows any appetite for taking part directly and risk being deemed a co-combatant by Moscow.
NATO has rejected Ukraine’s appeal for a no-fly zone, prompting fierce criticism from Zelenskyy who said the move greenlighted Russia’s bombing campaign.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision on Saturday following an urgent meeting of the 30-member alliance in Brussels.
He said helping Ukraine protect its skies from Russian missiles and warplanes would require NATO forces to shoot down Russian aircraft, a move that could result in a “full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries”.
“We are not part of this conflict,” he said.
The Biden administration has also ruled out such a move.
Officials and experts have warned of spiralling escalation if the US gets directly involved in the war, which has seen more than two million people flee so far.