Ukraine pressed need for support as UN court rules on war

Nato defence ministers gather as efforts to end conflict intensify

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the US Congress on Wednesday to appeal for a no-fly zone imposed by Nato to resist the Russian onslaught as the United Nations top court ruled the war had no justification in international law.

Mr Zelenskyy cited Pearl Harbor and the terror attacks of September 11 on Wednesday as he appealed to the US Congress to do more to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

“We need you right now,” he said, adding, “I call on you to do more.”

"Last night Russian forces continued shelling Ukrainian territory, our peaceful cities and citizens. Kharkiv and the region, as well as Odesa's shore were bombed. They fired missiles on Kyiv, on civil infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia. As of today this morning, 103 children have been killed."

As ceasefire negotiations ground on, statements from the two sides suggested room for their talks to make progress as reports said a 15 point peace plan had been shared with the two sides.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a neutral military status for Ukraine was being “seriously discussed” at the “business-like” talks, while Mr Zelenskyy earlier described Moscow's demands for ending the war as becoming “more realistic.”

The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Russia to stop its invasion on Wednesday after ruling there was no evidence to support the Kremlin’s justifications accusing Ukraine of committing genocide against Russian-speakers in the eastern regions.

The ruled was backed by 13 votes to two that “the Russian Federation shall immediately suspend military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine”. Russian and Chinese judges on the court voted against the provisional order.

A member of a delegation of European leaders that travelled to Ukraine said the country needs a faster supply of weapons more than anything else to be able to protect itself from Russia’s attacks.

The Czech Republic’s prime minister Petr Fiala had journeyed o the conflict-hit Ukrainian capital by train with his Polish and Slovenian counterparts in an attempt to show solidarity with Ukraine, despite concerns about risks to their security while travelling through a war zone.

On his return, Mr Fiala expressed his admiration for the “brave struggle” of the Ukrainian people and said he had made the visit to “let them know that they are not alone”.

While sanctions on Russia and humanitarian aid were discussed with President Zelenskyy, so too was military and diplomatic support.

“Ukrainians are fighting extremely bravely, smartly and strategically. But they have a chance only if western countries provide them with enough military equipment,” Mr Fiala said.

Nato member states have sent military equipment to Ukraine, but the military alliance insists it has no intention of sending its soldiers there.

"We need to step up the supplies and involve as many countries as possible," said Mr Fiala, adding that Ukraine needed above all anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

"And it needs to be done fast because in two weeks' time it may be too late. This has to be done within days."

Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are all members of the EU and Nato. Although the three leaders spoke to European Council President Charles Michel upon their return, officials in Brussels cast the visit as something the prime ministers had undertaken on their own.

Mr Zelenskyy voiced his appreciation for the show of support from members of the EU, which he hopes Ukraine will one day be able to join.

European Commission spokesman, Eric Mamer, did not criticise the visit, but said that “solidarity is expressed in different ways through different channels”.

“Our solidarity with Ukraine is absolute. It has been repeated on numerous occasions. But more importantly, it is extremely tangible,” he said.

Speaking from Kyiv on Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is being made. It is here, that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. It is here that the future of us all hangs in the balance.”

Defence ministers gathered in Brussels for a Nato summit on the conflict, where Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General, said the dangers of escalation remained the most important factor in formulating a response. "We see destruction, we see human suffering in Ukraine but this can become even worse if Nato took actions that actually turned this into full-fledged war between Nato and Russia," he said.

Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary for Defence, said the summit would demonstrate unity within the Atlantic Alliance. "We remain united in our support of Ukraine and and we condemn Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion into Ukraine," he said. "And so Ukraine has a legitimate and sovereign government, and certainly we support their ability to defend themselves and we'll continue to support them going forward."

Updated: March 16, 2022, 4:39 PM