Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for Germany’s help Thursday, telling the German Parliament that a new wall is being erected in Europe “between freedom and bondage.”
"And this wall is getting bigger with every bomb that falls on Ukraine, with every decision that is not taken," Zelenskyy said in his video address.
He criticized Germany for its support of the now-suspended Nord Stream 2 pipeline project meant to carry natural gas from Russia, saying that Germany had put its economic concerns ahead of Ukraine’s security.
"We turned to you," he said. "We told you that Nord Stream was a kind of preparation for the war,” Zelenskyy said.
In the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, rescue efforts were continuing Thursday at a theater where Ukraine said Russia carried out an airstrike Wednesday on the site, where hundreds of civilians had been sheltering.
Satellite images of the site released by the Maxar space technology company showed the word “children” written in Russian on the pavement outside the theater as recently as Monday to alert pilots of Russian warplanes of people inside.
Also Wednesday, Russian airstrikes hit a municipal pool complex where
pregnant women and women with children where sheltering, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the regional Donetsk administration.
There were no reports of casualties from the attack on the pool complex, but the governor of northern city of Chernihiv said Thursday that at least 53 who were killed in heavy Russian aerial and ground attacks arrived at morgues in the past 24 hours.
Russia has denied any involvement.
In the meantime, the Ukrainian government said Russia conducted more airstrikes on Mariupol and attacks on other areas of Ukraine early Thursday, including on the towns of Kalynivka and Brovary outside the capital of Kyiv.
The mayor of the eastern town of Merefa said Russian artillery leveled a school and community center overnight but did not immediately report any casualties.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden answered Ukraine’s plea for help with an $800 million assistance package that includes a range of weapons and defensive gear — a response that falls short of the no-fly zone Zelenskyy has sought.
Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago. His forces have struck hospitals, schools and homes. Zelenskyy said Wednesday that about 100 children have been killed in the full-scale attack.
The new U.S. aid package “brings the total of new U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to $1 billion just this week,” Biden said.
“This new package on its own is going to provide unprecedented assistance to Ukraine,” the president added. “It includes 800 anti-aircraft systems to make sure the Ukrainian military can continue to stop the planes and helicopters that have been attacking their people and to defend their Ukrainian airspace.”
The Pentagon Wednesday said efforts to deliver the equipment are already underway.
“We understand the tyranny of time here,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters.
“We've already started working on how to source all these all these items and get them there as quickly as possible,” the official said, noting that despite Russian threats, “things are still getting into the hands of the Ukrainians … Those routes are still open.”
At a news conference Thursday in Bratislava with Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Naj’, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “Enforcing a no-fly zone actually means that you’re in combat, you’re in a fight with Russia.”
Defense minister Naj’ said that Slovakia, a NATO member, would be willing to provide S-300 long-range air defense missile systems to Ukraine if his country received a “proper replacement” for its S-300s or if it received a “capability guaranteed for a certain period of time.”
Austin was non-committal on Slovakia’s proposal, telling reporters, “These are things that we will continue to work with all of our allies on, and certainly this is not just a U.S. issue, it’s a NATO issue.”
Western officials said Thursday that significant differences remain between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators who held talks Wednesday by video. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “there is a very, very big gap between the positions in question.”
Patsy Widakuswara, Anita Powell and Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.