Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has suggested that his country may be willing to temper its Nato membership ambitions, as Russia intensified its shelling of Kyiv and an Irish cameraman and his local colleague were killed while working near the city.
At least five people died on Tuesday when Russian artillery fire hit residential areas of Kyiv, where Moscow's forces appear to be preparing for a major attack nearly three weeks into an invasion that has claimed thousands of lives and prompted more than three million people to flee to European Union states.
Civilians continued to leave in convoys of cars from some of the most severely damaged cities in Ukraine, including the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where officials accused Russian troops of "taking hostage" hundreds of patients by seizing a major hospital and firing from the building.
US network Fox News said one of its cameramen, Irishman Pierre Zakrzewski (55), was killed along with Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshinova (24) when their car was hit by shelling outside Kyiv. British reporter Benjamin Hall was badly injured in the incident.
Zakrzewski grew up in Dublin and attended St Conleth’s College in Ballsbridge. Tributes were paid by President Michael D Higgins, among others. Stephen O’Dea, a former classmate and friend, described Zakrzewski as “astonishing” and “brave”.
Weapons and funding
Western states are providing weapons and funding to Ukraine and continue to expand economic sanctions against Russia, but Mr Zelenskiy expressed frustration again on Tuesday that Nato would not impose a no-fly zone over his country, or provide it with jet fighters or powerful anti-aircraft systems, or fast-track it into the alliance.
“For years we have heard about supposedly open doors [to Nato], but we have also heard that we cannot go through them. And this is true, and we need to admit it,” he said.
“We need new formats of co-operation, new decisiveness. And if we cannot go through the ‘open door’, then we must work with organisations that will help and protect us.”
Russia claims to be attacking Ukraine to pre-empt future security threats from the country and to force it to enshrine military neutrality. Moscow also says it wants to “demilitarise” and “de-Nazify” the pro-western democracy of 41 million people and to force Kyiv to accept the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and the self-proclaimed independence of Moscow-led breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.
Show of support
In a show of support for Ukraine, Czech prime minister Petr Fiala, Slovenian premier Janez Jansa, their Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki and the leader of Poland's ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, arrived in Kyiv by train on Tuesday evening.
“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,” Mr Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.
Nato announced that it would hold an “extraordinary” summit in Brussels on March 24th to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The White House said the summit would be attended by US president Joe Biden, who signed off on a $13.6 billion (€12.4 billion) package of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Tuesday.