Russian troops are 'confused children' who don't know why they are in Ukraine: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has issued a call to arms with daily speeches and social-media comments since the invasion started. PHOTO: AFP

KYIV (NYTIMES) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday (March 3) portrayed invading Russian troops as directionless and asserted that the invasion plans of Russian President Vladimir Putin had been "ruined", even as the first major Ukrainian city of Kherson fell in the war.

"Our soldiers, our border guards, our territorial defence, even simple farmers are capturing Russian soldiers every day, and all of them are saying the same thing: They don't know why they are here,'' Mr Zelensky said in a speech posted on his Facebook page.

"These are not warriors of a superpower. These are confused children who have been used."

Since the invasion started a week ago, Mr Zelensky has issued a call to arms with daily speeches and social-media comments.

His willingness to fight - he has said he is Russia's target No. 1 - against a superior army has made him something of a folk hero for many people who oppose Russian invasion.

He received a standing ovation on Tuesday when he addressed the European Parliament on a video link. His urging of a civilian resistance has echoes of Winston Churchill's defiance of Nazi Germany.

"Even though there are 10 times more of them, the enemy's morale is getting lower and lower," Mr Zelensky said. "We are a people who have ruined our enemy's plans in one week."

But Russia has stepped up bombardments of civilian targets across Ukraine and has begun to make some advances. Russian forces now control the southern port of Kherson and have a path to Odessa as they try to capture all of Ukraine's Black Sea coast.

They have also surrounded another southern port, Mariupol, and the second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the country's northeast. And, they have massed a convoy outside the capital, Kyiv.

Remote video URL

Mr Zelensky said 9,000 Russians have been killed in Ukraine so far, while the Kremlin put its losses at 498. Neither of those figures could be independently verified.

Among civilians, the United Nations has reported 227 deaths through Tuesday and noted that the number is likely higher. More than one million people have fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Follow The Straits Times' live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.